How Caffeine Can Kill Productivity


Caffeine vexes our modern rat race. Workaday slobs and power brokers can’t face their day without it. Triple-shot espressos replace two-martini lunches as we press the lever incessantly for more caffeine. Fellow rodents scramble for position atop the heap in a shrinking cage, instinctively craving solutions that amp our ability to compete. A Washington state man is reportedly fond of the 40-shot espresso, the most expensive drink Starbucks offers, as it gets him through the day. This is what we've come to.

While caffeine rules as the world’s favorite stimulant, its edgy zing drains life force and kills productivity. For moderate to heavy users, withdrawal symptoms begin about 12 hours after going cold turkey, when strung-out sufferers curse their thirst for bitter crystalline alkaloid. Headaches, decreased energy, with loss of alertness and well-being, turn the screws on energy addicts who ail for a healthy diet.

Coffee achievers get positive reinforcement from 150 mg of chemical reward in an 8-oz cup to jumpstart initiative, while energy-drinkers are conditioned to guzzle 160 mg inside 16 ounces of canned Monster to recharge low-voltage output. Despite its rep as a cure-all for brain barnacles and moored butts, caffeine stands in the same lineup next to cocaine and amphetamines with rap sheets as analeptics, or drugs that stimulate the central nervous system.

The Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders estimates that 9%–30% of caffeine consumers in America demonstrate substance dependency. The Encyclopedia explains two disorders that characterize chronic jitter junkies.

Caffeine intoxication describes a list of 12 unpleasant indicators afflicting heavy drinkers who experience a loss of social and occupational functioning. Score a 5 or better with ailments like insomnia, diarrhea, muscle twitching, and tachycardia to earn your medical diagnosis.

Caffeine-induced anxiety and sleep disorder distinguishes a class of symptoms which, in addition to caffeine intoxication, have grown so severe they demand separate clinical treatment. Anxiety may refer to a host of ills such as panic attacks, while sleep disorders could mark, among others, hypersomnia (inability to stay awake). 

Granted, a taste of psychoactive stimulant (coffee bean, tea leaf, kola nut, cocoa bean) could prod performance. A single can or cup may sharpen focus, memory, and reaction time. But conventional wisdom raises red flags the moment we reach for a second drink.

Caffeine initiates excessive neuron firing in the brain, boosting the pituitary gland to pump out stress hormones, which then trigger the adrenal gland to spike the central nervous system with adrenaline. 

Homo sapiens depended on adrenaline to hold at bay bear-size hyenas, or to charge headlong as a feral tribe of stinking cavemen, dipping spears in the red ink of 8-ton mastodons. Yet manly apes never needed caffeine to bring home the bacon, while modern humans sit at desks, harnessing synthetic “fight or flight” to overpower email and rush reports.

Invariably fight or flight’s stress response bottoms out, making us tired, hungry, and hell-bent for irritability, fatigue, headaches, and confusion. Caffeine juicing induces the type of biochemical teeter totter we endure in warzones. Even troglodytes had sense enough to take a nap after hauling home dripping shanks of woolly mammoth. Still we reach for another hit, believing that lattes and 5-hour Energy gas our flame for industry.

Occasionally Starbucks sends a coupon for a free custom drink. Greedily I accept their challenge to formulate the costliest rocket-powered combustion their barista will deign to dump in a 20-ounce cup. At breakfast I launch my six-shot iced caramel flan macchiato. And despite two hours of grueling cardio, I spend the night orbiting the ceiling. The next morning caffeine’s siren song lures me back to rocky shores with the promise of immediate cure.

Treat caffeine like every other addictive drug. Recognize that tolerance and consumption feed on each other to stave off withdrawals. Swilling 6 drinks a day to avoid burn out, hounds stimulation down weakening psychoactive spirals to crash against acute adrenal fatigue.

If you’re constantly anxious, wiped out, subject to mood swings, sleepless nights or weekend hibernation, then you may be a jitter junkie. We all chug mugs to complete projects and meet deadlines, but we’ve bought a bad jones when every day feels like finals week.

We don’t flee from saber-tooths or fight marauding Neanderthals, but we must plan productive days the caveman way, through balanced nutrition from whole foods. Break your fast with fruit, veggies, and vittles you hunt and gather outside of a package. Welcome morning menus with Chocolate Frosted Rocket Bombs, flushed down by Jolt Cola, like black plague at the castle gates.

Quick energy draws quick penalty, making us hunger and thirst for a corrupt cycle that murders productivity. Don’t join your company cult of toxic energy addicts, who taunt death from a chemical spill of lethal liquids. Try to forgive caffeine freaks with short tempers and shorter attention spans, who radiate pheromone signals of bile breath and whiffy pits only a gorilla could love. When beastly behavior doesn’t seem natural, you can probably blame it on their monkey.