Can Caffeine Help or Hinder Addiction Recovery?

Updated: Feb 16



Can Caffeine Help or Hinder Addiction Recovery?


The most celebrated caffeinated beverage nearly worldwide is coffee, and it has become quite a staple for many in addiction recovery. Common stereotypes usually involve large batches of fresh coffee being shared at group counseling sessions, recovery peers meeting up at coffee shops to catch up, and coffee generally being favored in social situations among those who abstain from all drugs and alcohol.


Caffeine isn’t limited to coffee, of course. Thousands of different energy drinks are available on the market, boasting various health claims but ultimately delivering very high doses of caffeine and other naturally occurring stimulants. There’s also tea, which contains caffeine, though in smaller amounts than its counterparts. However, few realize that despite being so commonplace, caffeine is technically still considered a psychoactive drug; and while its addictiveness is still debated, many question whether its impact on recovery is something to consider.


Potential Benefits and Downsides of Caffeine:


When evaluating the pros and cons of caffeine consumption in recovery, the source is everything. Coffee and tea are traditional forms of stimulants and can be consumed in a minimal state when steeped with hot water, for example, also sometimes enjoyed with small amounts of sweetener and dairy. Energy drinks are far different, some packing the punch of four cups of coffee in a single serving, making it very (and deliciously) easy to overdo, and consume far more caffeine and sugar than what is considered healthy.


Coffee can be healthy in moderation. Some research shows that moderate consumption (less than four cups a day) is relatively harmless for most people and can offer health benefits like reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, type II diabetes, and many more ailments. In fact, the long list includes illnesses commonly associated with substance misuse, meaning it’s possible that moderate coffee intake can slightly offset the risk of diagnosis. Still, increased intake won’t better the chances. Tea offers similar benefits, especially green tea.


Coffee may help offset depression. Sources claim that higher coffee intake can lower the risk of depression, a mood disorder that affects many people in recovery. However, its effects are mild, so coffee should never become a substitute for depression medication. Even for those who aren’t struggling with clinical depression, caffeine can provide a quick burst of energy when needed to get out the door to the gym or do chores around the house.


Caffeine can exacerbate anxiety. People who struggle with generalized anxiety or are prone to feeling anxious learn to avoid stimulants like caffeine early on through trial and error (and some unfortunate experiences). Because many in recovery have problems with anxiety, it’s best to be cautious about even minimal caffeine intake to prevent triggering events like panic attacks.


Caffeine can disrupt sleep. An added energy boost from a caffeinated beverage is almost always welcomed, but sometimes it can last entirely too long. With a half-life of four to six hours, caffeine can linger in the bloodstream as bedtime approaches, preventing essential restful sleep and sometimes causing insomnia. Studies have found that even a slight reduction in quality sleep can impact a person’s ability to function correctly, including handling emotions, poor memory, and trouble focusing. This can cause someone to double up on caffeine, furthering the problem, or they may seek out sleep aids that are habit-forming, potentially leading to misuse or addiction.


The proclaimed health benefits of caffeine are constantly changing, and experts seem to adjust their stances on whether it can be beneficial or harmful, especially for those in addiction recovery. Patients should always consult their medical provider if they have any questions or concerns about adding or eliminating caffeine intake and how it may interact with any medication or diagnosis.

Recovery Services of New Mexico is proud to provide communities with effective, evidence-based treatment methods for substance use disorder. A specialized team of medical providers, nursing, and administrative staff are ready to help those who want to take the first step towards recovery. Find the nearest RSONM location and message or call us today to learn more.