Why You Should Avoid Drinking Too Much Caffeine in Recovery

Caffeine and Cigarettes: A Recovery Stereotype

It’s not uncommon for coffee and cigarettes to come to mind when you think about the early stages of recovery – and it may not be incorrect. One Nashville study found that there’s some truth to the old association between AA recovery meetings and caffeine. That research showed that almost 89% of surveyed AA members drank coffee on a daily basis, compared to just over 60% of the general population.

But why do people in recovery turn to coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks, and is that a harmless outlet, or a harmful one? Today, we’ll explain why you should avoid drinking too much caffeine in recovery.

Is Caffeine Addictive?

While many people may joke that they are “addicted” to their morning coffee, researchers are conflicted about whether this beverage truly has addictive properties. Arguments in favor of classing coffee as addictive point to its stimulant properties, the fact that it can build a dependency and that its cessation can result in withdrawals. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms include appetite changes, cravings, irritability, anxiety and severe headaches. Detractors argue that the dopamine rush created by caffeine consumption doesn’t quite meet the classification for an addictive substance.

Should You Drink Coffee in Early Recovery?

Regardless of your definition of addiction, the truth is that almost any substance can be used problematically. Taking caffeine pills and drinking endless cups of coffee may become habitual or start to occur as a response to stressful stimuli. Being reliant on caffeine can result in extended dependency on external substances for focus, mood and coping. This reflex is our chief concern. For this reason, we advise that you be very mindful about caffeine consumption, especially in the earliest phases of your recovery.

Side Effects of Caffeine Consumption

While moderate consumption may carry some benefits, drinking a lot of coffee can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health.

For those struggling with an anxiety disorder, caffeine may be of detriment. Anxiety disorders often co-occur with substance use disorders; they may come in the form of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, phobias and social anxiety. These diagnoses have something in common: they all trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response, resulting in heightened alertness, increased heart rate and muscle tension. These same effects are caused by caffeine. What does this mean? Even if none of a person’s anxiety triggers are nearby, drinking a large amount of coffee may trick the body into thinking there’s something to be anxious about. Unfortunately, this may increase a person’s risk of relapse. Individuals with anxiety disorders should be cautious about how much caffeine they drink in early recovery.

Another issue faced by those in the earliest stages of treatment and recovery is sleep. Many people who have just stopped using drugs or alcohol experience sleep problems, either in falling or staying asleep. This is a critical area for many of us seeking to restore our physical health after a long battle with addiction, and with careful attention to bedtime routines and exercise, it is possible to restore a balanced sleep cycle. Caffeine may make this problem even worse; because it stays in the body for hours after consumption, an afternoon cup of coffee may mean a sleepless night.

Comprehensive Addiction Treatment in Nashville, Tennessee

With more than 50 years of experience, we have helped countless people to break the cycle of addiction. Cumberland Heights is a non-profit recovery center located on the banks of the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. Our aim is to provide lasting healing to those suffering from addiction. To learn more about our inpatient and outpatient services, contact us today.