Caffeine vs. Cocaine

Other | Wednesday 6th February 2013 | Harry


Coffee is the world’s most popular fix; it is “the most frequently self-administered drug in recreational use worldwide today.” And according to results from the latest annual drugs report published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), over the past ten years cocaine has become the most commonly used illicit stimulant drug in Europe and it is estimated that 15.5 million Europeans have used cocaine once in their life.

I have done some investigation into this subject and although many people did disagree, I can now confirm that yes; there is a difference between caffeine and cocaine. Although both are stimulants and are used for the same thing to a certain extent, to get you going, there are in fact some scientific differences to these two drugs. But it can’t be denied, cocaine and caffeine are two very similar drugs in their effects. There has even been scientific research, and claims that coffee acts just like cocaine with a Dr James Bibb saying “we know little about how caffeine works in the brain, whether with the kick from a double espresso or small jolts from tea and cola. We do know it is rewarding, can enhance cognition and performance and induce dependence at the same time.” Sound familiar?

But I am not here to judge here nor there. I’m here to give you the facts on the similarities and differences between cocaine and caffeine. Coke and coffee.

Firstly, they do both come from different sources. Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that comes from the leaves of the coca plant which is commonly found in South America. Caffeine is a xanthine alkaloid that was first isolated from the coffee plant and is present in coffee, tea and chocolate. However they are both stimulants, cousins even, in the every growing drug family. This means that they both work in a similar way, signalling our minds to release adrenaline and create a pleasant feeling. So yes, caffeine works in the same way that cocaine does in that it raises the levels of dopamine in our body. However the difference is that cocaine is much stronger and is also mind altering, whereas caffeine only slighter raises our dopamine levels. That is to say, cocaine creates a feeling of outright euphoria compared to the more mellow satisfaction that might be attained from sipping a cup of coffee.

They are both addictive. However, only excessive intake can cause caffeine dependency whereas cocaine is far easier to succumb to and a lot more brutal. It goes without saying that it is far less severe to wake up and need a cup of coffee than to have to sniff a big line of coke.

They both can cause anxiety, paranoia and restlessness. Anyone who has had a cup of coffee too many can tell you this as they tremble in a caffeine induced fit, just as anyone who has had a cocaine problem will tell you the same. But it is here where we encounter a difference, a large one.

Tolerance. Caffeine has a built-in restraining mechanism which means that once you hit the drug’s ‘dysphoric’ range, which is to say once you reach that point where you are overcome by anxiety, nausea and the shakes, your body is naturally telling you to stop drinking it. It is self regulating. Cocaine tolerance differs greatly as it grows and grows. The more cocaine you ingest the more your body needs and the greater the stimulation. This is also where the addictive nature of the drugs differs as your body cannot tell you when you have had too much cocaine until it is too late. To sum that up, take too much cocaine and you will feel invincible until you really have taken too much. Take too much caffeine and your body will automatically let you know when you have reached your limit and you will be forced to stop.    

 So the similarities between cocaine and caffeine are there to see, just as the differences are. But at the end of the day these two stimulants are worlds apart. Although coffee has been through its rough patches, in the 1980’s the Americans were particularly critical of the effects they thought it might be having on the body, it has come through and we know now it can actually be good for you in moderate amounts. New research has shown that it may even help prevent Alzheimer’s. One study has shown that a person’s suicide risk decreased with each cup of coffee consumed a day. Cocaine is a very dangerous drug that can easily lead to a person’s life spiralling out of control and ending in demise, there are no reports emerging that cocaine consumption can be beneficial in any way.

 I wouldn’t want to see the same results to a study showing a person’s suicide risk if they were consuming cocaine each day. Basically, stick to your coffee fix every morning, it’s more than sufficient. Don’t fall into the cocaine trap because you might not escape.