The misery of coffee

I smiled just now, for no particular reason.  Just randomly happy about how things are going.  This sentiment, once rare, is suddenly common, and I suspect the change is not circumstances, but simply that I stopped drinking coffee three weeks ago.

The change was for an unrelated reason:  I’m starting RAGBRAI on Sunday, and didn’t want to face withdrawal from a 500mg-a day caffeine habit during the ride, so I switched to green tea in advance, a move analogous to methadone for heroin addicts.

The negatives I experienced in withdrawal — headaches and sleep disruption — are well known.  What surprised me was this:

  • Suddenly my throat wasn’t sore, leading me to realize I had had a sore throat for months, and possibly longer, ending within the past 3 weeks.
  • Better rested, despite spending less time sleeping.
  • Almost nothing stresses me out.  It’s like someone tripped over the power cable to the anxiety circuit — it abruptly went dark.
  • Can concentrate better.
  • Can think more flexibly:  easier to recognize when stuck on a problem, and to change direction, rather than push through automaton-like.
  • Teeth are noticeably whiter.
  • Breath is fresher (says the wife, with genuine enthusiasm).

Health nuts sing the praises of green tea, but the real benefit may simply be the absence of coffee.

I’ve presumed for some time that, just like other drugs, coffee is manipulated to maximize psychoactive content.  Here is one example suggesting that caffeine content is rising rapidly.  The European Food Standards Agency in 2001 suggested a 300mg daily limit for caffeine, which it equated to three cups of coffee.  Yet Starbucks says its standard-size “tall” coffee contains 260mg, over 85% of the recommended limit.  Peet’s caffeine content is much higher still, judging from my own palpitations.  And again, there is more going on here than just caffeine.  Coffee has other alkaloid stimulants, and is roasted, creating byproducts.

I had planned to restart coffee this Sunday, as available, but now I’m not so sure.  And still, the pull back to the dark side is strong:  when will the macchiato cravings end?

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