Coffee: A Harmless Drug? | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 18.12.2004
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Coffee: A Harmless Drug?

Compared to hardcore narcotics and cigarettes, coffee is relatively harmless, but it can have its side effects and lead to addiction, say scientists, who report that caffeine is popping up everywhere.


Are you a coffee addict?

Caffeine, the active ingredient in a cup of coffee is a dependency-inducing psychoactive drug, which is being consumed at increasing rates, say scientists in the latest addition of National Geographic Deutschland.

Long before they start experimenting with alcohol and cigarettes, children are getting exposed to addictions in the form of caffeine in cola and chocolate. Even before birth, babies are consuming caffeine through the womb from coffee-drinking mothers. Traces of the drug have been found in day-old infants, the scientists report.

Gerhard Schröder trinkt Kaffee

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder gets a quick-fix of coffee during a long parliamentary debate

As a stimulant, caffeine influences various mental and physical functions. It also can be addictive. A person who regularly drinks three cups of coffee, for instance, will require at least one cup in order for the brain to work in “normal” mode. Many people attest to the fact that they can’t fully wake up in the morning without a fresh brew.

The majority of scientists and doctors are of the opinion, however, that one to two cups of coffee a day can not hurt anyone. The intentional misuse of caffeine is seldom. Only in the field of sports, where the consumption of more than six cups of coffee is considered doping, are cases of caffeine drug abuse heard of.

The drug of choice


Cofe bars are the trendy way to consume the brew

Given the prevalence of coffee and other caffeinated beverages in today’s society, it’s not surprising that nearly everyone consumes the stimulant. In Germany, coffee has far surpassed beer as the nation’s favorite beverage. With some 320 million cups of coffee consumed daily, Germany is the world’s second largest coffee-importing and drinking nation, after the US.

Of course the coffee empire of Starbucks has gone a long way to boosting caffeine consumption and making coffee drinking cool among the younger crowd, shied away from traditional cafes with their stale interiors and gilded porcelain cups. Every day the Seattle-based company opens up four new shops around the world and hires on 200 new employees.

But caffeine is also popping up in places one normally wouldn’t expect: in pain killers, in sports drinks, even in women’s stockings.

The textile industry is the latest to discover the benefits of caffeine for the production of nylons. The stimulant is woven into the fibers to create an uplifting, sliming effect on the upper thighs – a pick-me-up the majority of women certainly can appreciate as much as a good cup of joe.

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