An Unexpected Threat to Addiction Recovery: Caffeine

For many, coffee is a morning must-have. In fact, just a quick swipe through social media shows our culture’s obsession with coffee as images of pretty lattes and matchas flood our news feeds.

As “But first, coffee” slowly becomes a household saying, many ignore the fact that caffeine actually is an addictive substance.

Sure, caffeine is not nearly as dangerous as an illicit drug, but when consumed in large quantities over an extended period of time, it can take a toll on the body.

Caffeine's Effect on the Body

Caffeine’s Effect on the Body

While the effects of caffeine vary from person to person, there are many negative side effects that can occur from consuming too much caffeine including:


Many people turn to caffeine as a means to increase their alertness, but too much caffeine can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety due to too much adrenaline.

Caffeine Addiction

Caffeine’s effect on the brain can lead to psychological or physical dependency and result in minor withdrawal symptoms in those who consume high quantities. Caffeine addiction is a very real side effect of drinking too much coffee on a regular basis.


The energy boost provided by caffeine can cause increased drowsiness and fatigue when it wears off, causing many people to reach for an afternoon caffeine recharge.

Rapid Heart Rate

While not everyone experiences a rapid heart side effect, it can occur in some who ingest high quantities of caffeine.


Caffeine is most often consumed first thing in the morning to help the body wake up. For the same reason, too much caffeine can negatively impact that quality of sleep and cause insomnia.

Muscle Breakdown

In those with a low tolerance, excessive caffeine intake can lead to the breakdown of muscle fibers, leading to kidney failure and other issues.

High Blood Pressure

This side effect only affects some caffeine drinkers and is most common when caffeine is consumed in high doses. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease or stroke, which is an important reason to monitor caffeine intake.

Digestive Issues

Caffeine is often consumed to get the bowels moving in a healthy way, but too much caffeine can lead to loose stool and digestive issues.

Caffeine and Addiction Recovery

Caffeine and Addiction Recovery

It is quite common for those in addiction recovery to develop an addiction to caffeine.

Through the process of overcoming a drug or alcohol dependency, many turn to coffee, energy drinks, and sodas as a way to cope.

While these drinks are significantly less harmful than illicit drugs and alcohol, too much caffeine can also be damaging and result in withdrawal that usually lasts several days and can cause headaches, a foggy brain, as well as physical aches and pains.

So does this mean that those in recovery should avoid caffeine?

Truthfully, yes. While caffeine may be an effective crutch when recovering from addiction, there are several reasons why it may actually get in the way of a full recovery.

Consuming Caffeine May Make Recovery More Difficult

In addition to caffeine’s addictive nature, the side effects associated with too much caffeine can make addiction recovery more difficult.

Many of those who are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction or withdrawal struggle with issues that can be exacerbated by caffeine such as insomnia, fatigue, and anxiety.

Caffeine Consumption May Increase Risky Behavior

For some, caffeine dependence may actually make them more at risk for relapse.

While caffeine can improve mood, increase attention, and improve motor function, excessive amounts can actually cause difficulties with concentration and coherent thought.

Those in the early of stages of recovery are still learning to shift their behavior through healthy practices, and too much caffeine may inhibit clear thinking, resulting in impulsivity and acting on old habits.

Alternatives to Drinking Caffeine

6 Alternatives to Drinking Caffeine

Fortunately, coffee and other caffeinated beverages are not the only options for people looking for a morning pick-me-up.

If you are looking to quit caffeine, there are several substitutes that can help you kick your craving, give you an energy boost, and offer additional health benefits.

1. Green Smoothie

Blend leafy greens with your favorite berries to create a morning breakfast that is rich in nutrients and offers energy through natural sugars.

2. Flavorful Tea

Find a cafeine-free tea with a bold flavor that helps you wake up. Try ginger, turmeric, or spicy herbal teas that offer a little kick to your taste buds. Not only will these teas give you a burst of energy, they will also clear the senses and calm the mind.

3. Peppermint Tea

Did you know that even just the smell of peppermint is enough to improve concentration?

Invigorate your senses, get a boost of sugar, and hydrate at the same time by drinking a mug of caffeine-free peppermint tea with a swirl of honey.

4. Probiotics

Probiotics offer countless benefits including improved digestion, boosted immunity, and increased energy.

5. Coconut Water

Not only does coconut water hydrate and replenish electrolytes (making it a major energy booster), it is also high in potassium and low in sodium.

6. Water

Whie this may seem like a boring alternative to a latte, it is one of the most practical.

Dehydration can deplete the body of energy, so sometimes all we need for improved concentration is a tall glass of H20.

In fact, a large glass of water first thing in the morning will hydrate the body’s organs and provide a natural wakeup call for the body to start the day. It is the best alternative to morning coffee and most people are surprised to find out how well it wakes them up “without” caffeine.

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