PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It seems like coffee is everywhere you turn these days.
It’s not just older people who are drinking it either.
Young adults, even some teenagers, can’t seem to get enough of it.
So, is coffee becoming an addiction like drugs or alcohol and should it be treated as a psychological illness?
There’s a growing physical dependence on caffeine that research now shows is similar to the dependency people experience on drugs or alcohol.
“It’s definitely something that I fight with myself all the time,” Jessica Hayes said.
It’s a feeling Hayes says she knows all too well and doctors say she’s not alone.
“People have come to us saying ‘Yes, please help me, I believe my caffeine use is problematic,’” American University Psychology Professor Laura Juliano said.
Juliano researches the health effects of caffeine at American University in Washington, D.C.
For some people, reliance on coffee can become a real psychological problem.
“I would absolutely want help. If there were somebody who had some kind of cure, some kind of thing that would make me feel like I didn’t need it every day, I would absolutely take it,” Hayes said.
Juliano is now researching potential treatments, which may even include face-to-face counseling.
“It would be beneficial if treatment guidelines were developed in the same way that we’ve developed them for tobacco,” Juliano said.
“There may be a caffeine use disorder, but we need more research,” University of Pennsylvania Psychiatry Professor Dr. Charles O’Brien said.
Dr. O’Brien is in charge of the committee of doctors studying “caffeine use disorder” and whether to categorize it as a mental illness.
“For a use disorder, it would have to be people who are compulsively drinking coffee, and having it interfere with their behavior,” Dr. O’Brien said.