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So you think you’re not a drug addict? In fact, every society has its own legal drugs that produce either stimulant or sedative effects on the brain. In our society, three legal drugs that do this are caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.

Caffeine is present in coffee and cola drinks, and there are surprisingly large quantities in tea. Two cups of tea equals roughly one cup of coffee in terms of caffeine content. As most of the population of England drink several cups of either tea or coffee each day, this amounts to a sizeable daily dose of caffeine. Some people are much more addicted to caffeine than this and drink ten or twenty cups a day, to say nothing of additional cola drinks.

In many people this causes no effects whatsoever, but those taking large quantities of caffeine may get a condition called caffeinism which comprises agitation, restlessness, difficulty with sleeping, tremors and a headache. Reducing the dose of caffeine helps considerably; but those who regularly and often take in a lot of caffeine will get a withdrawal headache if they suddenly stop their consumption.

If you’ve got a headache from suddenly stopping caffeine, have a caffeine-containing drink. Then plan to reduce your intake to a more sensible level, doing so slowly and progressively. Be aware that as well as being addicted to the caffeine (pharmacologically) you can also be allergic to the coffee or tea that goes with it. If you are really having problems with caffeine then you may need to cut out coffee, tea and cola drinks altogether and to try fruit squashes and mild herbal teas instead.

Complementary treatment

Caffeine acts directly on the nervous system, bringing about an almost immediate sense of thinking more clearly, and relieving fatigue. Caffeine stimulates the release of stored sugar from the liver, which accounts for the sudden, uplifting experience. Through this reaction, however, enormous strain is placed on the system.

Like any other drug, caffeine can be toxic if taken in quantity. And for the record, decaffeinated coffee is not an ideal substitute. The process by which the caffeine is removed from the coffee involves a number of chemicals and soaps, and these additives are notorious for causing headaches.

Peppermint tea is stimulating, and a tonic (although it shouldn’t be taken with homoeopathic remedies). Mu tea can increase vitality, and dandelion root coffee is a delicious alternative to regular coffee – and a mild diuretic as well. Guarana is a popular supplementary pick-me-up with the healthfood gurus.

Acupuncture can increase energy, and relieve the headache associated with caffeine.


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