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Caffeine and Nicotine are Drugs, Why are They Excused in Recovery?

Caffeine and Nicotine Addiction

Posted by Steps to Recovery on January 27, 2013

When you go into recovery, it’s important to let your body completely detox and heal. Which definitely means abstaining from illicit drugs and alcohol. I think a really important part of this is also eating well and getting a little bit of healthy movement. I also feel that abstaining from caffeine and nicotine should be a part of this detox. After all, caffeine and nicotine are drugs, so why are they excused in recovery?

Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant, temporarily warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness. It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug, but, unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is both legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world. Beverages containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks, enjoy great popularity; in North America, 90% of adults consume caffeine daily. Caffeine is even toxic at sufficiently high doses.

Nicotine is a potent parasympathomimetic alkaloid. In low doses, the substance acts as a stimulant, while high amounts can be fatal. It is believed that this stimulant effect is the main factor responsible for the dependence-forming properties of tobacco smoking. According to the American Heart Association, nicotine addiction has historically been one of the hardest addictions to break, while the pharmacological and behavioral characteristics that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those determining addiction to heroin and cocaine.

Heavy smokers or coffee drinkers may experience similar symptoms when they withdraw from their drug. Nervous irritability and emotional outbreaks are common symptoms these drug addicts experience when they are detoxifying. Nicotine and caffeine damage the nervous system and upset the vascular system, so symptoms such as headaches, edginess, extreme lassitude or mental cloudiness are expected.

It is clear to see that caffeine and nicotine are intense drugs that have a profound effect on our bodies. So why are nicotine and caffeine somehow excused by much of the recovery community as somehow different than other drugs or alcohol? Is it something in their chemical nature? In the way they affect the brain? No–caffeine and nicotine are not really neurochemically different than any other mood altering, addictive drug of abuse.

Can we really detox and heal our bodies and minds when we are still using drugs that create physical and mental changes in us? What do you think about caffeine and nicotine? Should they be excused in recovery or treated just like any other drug?

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