A Look at How Your Brain Gets Addicted to Caffeine

It's no secret that caffeine can be addictive... we've known it for years. But have you ever wondered why your body may feel an urge to make another pot of joe or grab a soda? Believe it or not, the science behind it is rather simple, and definitely interesting.

An addiction to something implies that you "need" to intake it often, and while it is about as simple a drug as they come, caffeine is in fact a drug. Many who consume lots of caffeine usually experience withdrawals after going without it for a while, much the same as someone who's trying to kick the smoking habit will, though it goes without saying that kicking caffeine is by far the easier of the two.

Caffeine and Adenosine

Because caffeine is both water and fat-soluble, it has the ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier to enter the brain, which is where it gets to work by giving you a little perk-me-up. That in itself isn't too impressive, though - what is, is the fact that structurally, caffeine's makeup doesn't differ much from adenosine, a body nucleoside that many believe plays a role in telling your brain that you're tired. Because of the similarity between the two, caffeine can cut in line and enter an adenosine receptor, negating the effects of adenosine to some degree (improving your wakefulness instead of reducing it).

A side-effect to caffeine's clever move here is that dopamine becomes more effective (it can improve motor skills and even arousal!), and with all of the adenosine floating around the brain, unable to enter the receptor it was bound for, adrenal glands begin to secrete adrenaline - yet another stimulant.

While caffeine is at the root of your heightened alertness, it goes without saying that there's a lot more at play during your caffeine high than caffeine merely entering the bloodstream.

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Like all drugs though, caffeine can cause withdrawal, but it's estimated that it'll take only a little over a week to fully kick the habit. If you're like me and don't mind caffeine intake, you might be wondering what the most effective way to take caffeine is. Thankfully, research has been done on that.

Many take caffeine pills for various reasons, including a perk, but surprisingly, they're not as effective as drinking a coffee or energy drink since they have to dissolve first. A pill would take 84 - 120 minutes to saturate your blood, while liquid is about 40 minutes. Gum is a little more effective than pills because it can be absorbed into the blood quicker, but generally, doses there are low, so it's not going to prove that effective for everyone.

With all of this said, caffeine on, brothers and sisters, caffeine on.