Coffee, Cream, and Corruption: Does Drinking Coffee Really Increase Productivity?


Stephen Moore, Sultan of Stories

Millions of Americans are dependent on a very popular and legal drug; it is caffeine. The most popular form that it is delivered is in the popular drink coffee. It only takes about a week to become dependent. After that, if they stop drinking it they would suffer from headaches, fatigue, and impaired concentration. It costs caffeine users a large sum of money to sustain their addiction. Despite the symptoms of withdrawal, it is fairly easy to quit drinking coffee. So why don’t people quit?

There are several reasons people drink coffee. One reason is that people enjoy the taste. In its simplest terms, coffee is just water steeped with roasted coffee beans. However, there are many variables to consider when talking about coffee. There many different ways coffee is brewed. There are french presses, percolators, cold brewers, siphons, Moka pots, espresso machines, Keurigs, drip brewers, and Chemex coffee makers. Another variable is the type of beans that are used to make coffee. There are all sorts of beans such as French roast, Italian roast, and Columbian roast, each of which presents a different tasting coffee. Finally, you can add different ingredients to the coffee once it is brewed. Some popular additives include sugar, cream, milk, foamed milk, and cinnamon.  When I interviewed Maddie Wilson, I asked her when and why she started drinking coffee. She replied, “I started drinking coffee in 8th grade; I didn’t feel the effects of caffeine at first and enjoyed the taste.” If you ask anybody who drinks coffee, they will tell you it tastes good. Why else would they drink it?

The other reason why people drink coffee is the effect caffeine has on them. People find that coffee can improve productivity. I asked Jennifer Kane, an IHS teacher, about this and she told me, “It makes me more alert and less sluggish.” I asked Maddie if coffee affects her productivity and she replied, “I am very productive when I’m drinking coffee.” I also drink coffee to improve my productivity.

Even though people claim that it improves their productivity, how can we be sure it’s not a placebo effect? It has been backed up by science that coffee can improve your productivity. In a study conducted by Joseph M. Serra Grabulosa, a functional MRI was used to, “identify the neural substrate of the combined effects of the two substances.” The two substances being sugar and coffee. In the study, subjects were given sugar and caffeine to see the effects on the brain. The MRI revealed that consumption of caffeine and sugar reduced brain activation in areas that handled memory processes and attention span. In other words, it required less energy for the brain to use these areas of the brain. As a result, subjects experienced improved cognitive function through increased attention and working memory. The same study also found that when caffeine and sugar are consumed together they increase the effects of each other.

In contrast with increased productivity, caffeine can cause a physical dependence which can cause problems when coffee is cut from a diet. At this point, the user will face symptoms of withdrawal. Even though caffeine is not a psychologically addictive substance, you can still become physically dependent on it. The dependency is established once the brain gets used to the regular consumption of caffeine. Once the drug is removed from the system, the brain has to readjust. This is what causes the symptoms of withdrawal. Symptoms can include a headache that lasts up to two weeks, body fatigue, reduced concentration, and irritability. Although these symptoms sound bad, it’s relatively easy to quit drinking coffee. In contrast, a drug like nicotine has much more severe withdrawal symptoms due to psychological addiction caused.

To sum up, there are proven benefits to productivity as a result of drinking caffeine. This, however, does not come without the drawbacks of potential withdrawal. If you just enjoy the taste you can always resort to decaf coffee to avoid the drawbacks.