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Zhraath
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As a rational being I try to keep my mind in a high state of focus most of the time. Being a college student with a somewhat busy schedule, and studying for the upcomming LSAT exam this summer, I have started drinking more coffee than usual (still within a very safe limit)

Lately I have been considering whether or not this is a good for my life. The affects of caffinee help me focus much easier, and make my day even more efficient. I understand that there are certain health risks, but when consummed in moderation, the benefits seem to outweigh the costs.

My questions are these; Is using coffee/caffinee to enhance ones mental focus moral or immoral? Is it like cheating in a way? Would it be like using steroids in a physical competition? I personally dont think it is, but I would like to hear some of your thoughts on this topic.

Thanks for your input

Sincerely,

Marcus Lange

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Would it be like using steroids in a physical competition?
Yes, assuming the competition does not bar steroids, just as a test does not bar coffee, then they are both analogous in many ways. Their similarity is that they both help you to improve your ability to accomplish a goal, whether physical or mental.

My questions are these; Is using coffee/caffinee to enhance ones mental focus moral or immoral?

Since morality depends on the context, it can't be said "caffeine is immoral." However, I understand what you mean--you mean to say in a situation where caffeine provides positive mental benefits with no health risk. In that condition, we can certainly determine that caffeine is entirely morally good to use if the positives outweigh the negatives.

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Yes, assuming the competition does not bar steroids, just as a test does not bar coffee, then they are both analogous in many ways. Their similarity is that they both help you to improve your ability to accomplish a goal, whether physical or mental.

Since morality depends on the context, it can't be said "caffeine is immoral." However, I understand what you mean--you mean to say in a situation where caffeine provides positive mental benefits with no health risk. In that condition, we can certainly determine that caffeine is entirely morally good to use if the positives outweigh the negatives.

This was what I thought on it too... But, wouldnt it in a way make you more dependent on coffee and less on your natural mental abilities? But then again, I guess this might not be a bad thing. Since taking vitamins, medicine, vaccinations etc to improve ones natural health is very similar. I guess I am just being a little silly in worrying about this. I just felt a little guilty when the thought popped into my head that this might be a little cheap way of attaining my schooling goals.. But after further analysis I conclude that there is nothing wrong with it. :P

Marcus Lange

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Caffeine can be used and misused. Using it right is a good thing, but watch out: too much of it will send you into a spiral and even when used properly, you WILL crash at some point and have your fatigue catch up with you. The key is to have that happen at a natural energy peak or at a time when it's okay to take a nap.

There's a lot more to this, but that's what I have time to tell right now.

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I love coffee. :P

However, I have often wondered what benefits and drawbacks caffeine has for my health, since I am a barista and (on average) I consume at least two shots of espresso per day. I have read various medical studies which lean in both directions. There are the benefits of increased focus, energy, and a higher metabolic rate (due to increased heart rate). However, there are also the drawbacks - specifically in the "crashes" of someone who is physically and mentally exhausted by continues to use caffeine to strave off their eventual need for sleep. In addition, I have noticed that my body has begun to develop a tolerance to a certain amount of caffeine and I require stronger coffee drinks and more frequent ones than I used to, to achieve the same effect. Is this the same as with most stimulants?

Ex-banana eater made a good point, and I quote:

Since morality depends on the context, it can't be said "caffeine is immoral."

After reading this I tried to decide, what uses of caffeine are immoral, keeping in mind that my life is the standard of my values? I think an example of immoral use of caffeine would be to drink coffee endlessly, disregarding the fact that your body can not function after a certain point without food or proper nourishment. Also, I don't know the scientific evidence but I think that it would make sense for there to be a limit to how much caffeine can be safely consumed in a given period of time.

One other side-note is that I used to suffer from chronic headaches, and the doctor said they were actually a response to lack of caffeine - my body was suffering from withdrawal symptoms. He said I had to two choices. Either I could decide to cut caffeine out of my diet completely, bear the withdrawal while it lasts and then be headache free - or I could carry a small chocolate bar in my purse and eat a bit of it to feed my caffeine addiction. When he put it that way it sounded pretty damn ridiculous to me to be so dependent on something, but I admit I didn't stop drinking coffee and now I rarely get headaches because my caffeine consumption is pretty high. :huh:

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as long as you use coffee rationally, then morality isn't an issue. That is the case in life itself, rational use of any substance is not intrinsically bad, nor does irrational use make the substance intrinsically bad. In the case of irrational use, the blaim falls on the individual who made the irrational choice, not the substance itself. A rock can be used to bash someone's head in, but that doesn't make the rock intrinsically bad.

Perhaps this isnt the place to say it, but I have heard reports that even steriods, when used properly, are safe. Problems arise when "Professional" wrestlers jack themselves up on 10,000 dollars worth a month, and eventually develop manboobs and beat their wives, then liberals revert to their old Hobbesian notion that men need to be controlled for their own safety.

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The health risks of coffee are small minimal when taken in reasonable amounts (say, 2 cups a day), and the benefits are objectively great for someone leading a stressful and demanding lifestyle that requires focus and energy.

Steroids, as far as I know, are considered more dangerous by far, even in minimal use - if taken for long periods of time.

Also - caffeine's influence is not long-lasting. It does not change the configuration of your mind, as steroids do to your body.

Anyway, the issue of immorality is simple - you are only immoral if you are trading something of value and importance for something of lesser value and importance. In the case of coffee, that is clearly not the case.

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Steroids, as far as I know, are considered more dangerous by far, even in minimal use - if taken for long periods of time.

The use of steroids is relatively safe when done rationally, just like drinking coffee is safe when done rationally. There are studies which use superphysiological dosages of steroids where good cholesterol does not drop, and the liver is not effected, but the individuals increase their muscle mass while losing fat. In older individuals, androgen treatment often provides much more energy and focus than coffee ever could, while improving libido.

So, just like in any case, it depends on use versus abuse.

Elle, if you want to keep coffee but do not want to develope a caffeine tolerance, I suggest you limit your caffeine intake to weekdays (or workdays). Those days would be the most obvious to use caffeine if it helped you focus on work. On your weekends, you might try stretching or quick exercise as soon as you get up to wake yourself.

If your motivation for drinking coffee is the improvement in focus you derive from it, I would suggest green tea as a replacement. Green tea has less caffeine, but it contains considerable amounts of the amino-acid l-theanine. The one main study in the realm of its effects on cognition was done on 18-22 year old females where it promoted a state of being both alert and relaxed at once. Not to mention, there is now plenty of evidence supporting green tea's positive effects on some realms of health.

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In addition, I have noticed that my body has begun to develop a tolerance to a certain amount of caffeine and I require stronger coffee drinks and more frequent ones than I used to, to achieve the same effect.  Is this the same as with most stimulants?

It's interesting you say this. I started drinking coffee and coffee drinks in seventh grade. At the time, I wanted to drink these drinks in order to wake up and feel focused. However, I quickly discovered that my body seems to have a natural immunity for caffeine. I can drink several cups of coffee before going to bed and still fall to sleep immediately.

I do, however, have a relatively low tolerance for alcohol. It was so bad that when I turned 21, I used to get drunk off one beer. I learned fast, even before I became an Objectivist, that if I want to drink, I have to really learn my limits and drink in extreme moderation. (When my friends ask me why I don't get drunk with them anymore, I tell them the truth: I hate the feeling I get when I'm drunk.)

Of course, I got off on a tangent but my point is this: in my experience, different stimulants affect different people's bodies in different ways. There is no right and wrong answer as to how much is too much. Each person has to assess that on their own.

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Drinking even 50 cups of water a day would probably be a health hazard.

I knew a really nice Objectivist group organizer in St. Petersburg, Florida, who owned a major coffee distribution business. I think he drank something like 20 cups of coffee a day, and he was a real coffee enthusiast. I met him when he was in his 50s or 60s, and he was a rapid speaker and quick thinker. After a heart attack, he had to cut his coffee consumption down to a couple of cups a day. (He may have had a heart attack even if he drank no coffee, however). But he definitely believed that coffee is a healthy drink, good for the mind, an aphrodisiac.

From what I've seen, the latest scientific studies suggest that green tea is more of a health enhancer than coffee, however, so I'm drinking about 5-8 cups of that each day.

For me, I find that my choice of breakfast and lunch has a bigger impact on my mental clarity than how many cups of coffee I drink. I did drink extra coffee before most of my big life-significant tests (SAT, GMAT, CFA) and did pretty well on them all, so I give coffee a thumbs up.

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Hypothetically, if someone drinks, oh I don't know, say around 60 cups of coffee a day, what negative side effects would there be?

From personal experience, the largest negative side effect of consuming large amounts of coffee is the withdrawal your body goes through if you can't have it. I can't start my day without a pot of coffee and if I go for an extended period of time without any caffeine, I am extremely fatigued and groggy.

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Hypothetically, if someone drinks, oh I don't know, say around 60 cups of coffee a day, what negative side effects would there be?

That made me chuckle. When I started out as a broker, I worked in an office of old school brokers. They had a phone cradled on their shoulder, a cigarette in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. I didn't smoke but each of us had a pot at our desks. That came out to about 10+ cups per broker/day. We could actuall drink constantly for 12-16 hours we worked and then go home and crash. There were occasions that your heart would race and you couldn't go to sleep. One of our sales assistants switched us to decaf and I never noticed. Some people did.

Like any other stimulant, it works great short term but most people do build up a resistance. Like RedFarmer I can drink coffee right before bed and fall right to sleep. I cut back after a couple years of heavy conumption and drink only a couple cups of decaf a day now. I really enjoy the taste of coffee. It's not just the caffeine.

Side note: Po Bronson's Bombardiers has a character named Sid that helped take over the Dominican Republic using a leveraged buy out. He nearly died of caffeine poisoning due to his excess coffee comsumption. Very funny book.

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Hypothetically, if someone drinks, oh I don't know, say around 60 cups of coffee a day, what negative side effects would there be?

I notieced Friday the marks on my coffee pot at work. There are 10 cups of coffee per pot. So, I seem to remember that we drank upwards of 4 pots per 16 hour day so that is around 40+ cups per day. The effects as I mentioned on the previous post are pretty unpleasent long term and short term for that matter.

It's been my experience that when you can answer a hypothetical question with a real life answer, the answer is generally unpleasent.

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No, this does not add to the discussion, merely surrounds it with a little music.

Bitter black coffee and piping hot tea

Sit a-steaming and a-boiling just for me.

The java spits and sputters, and mutters in its wrath;

The yellow shrieks and bellows out of its kettle's mouth.

Spitter sputter, sput spit, whoo whoo wheee!

Better bitter black coffee and piping hot tea

When the winter wind's awailing

And the hail and sleet, a-stinging,

Go aslinging through the air,

Than ice-cream and candy bars

Under a summer night's bright stars.

B.F. :)

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Elle, you have written a very interesting post, specifically about the withdrawal symptoms and such. I'm kind of curious how you combined the fact that you felt it was "ridiculous to be so dependent on something" as to have physical (as opposed to imagined) withdrawal symptoms from it, and yet continue using it.

For myself, I drink coffee when I absolutely have to keep myself from falling asleep, which sometimes happens on deadlines. At all other times the strongest thing I drink is tea, and most of the time just soda, juice, milk, etc. I am very averse to ingesting substances that make a very strong physiological impact on my body; coffee not only causes the body pain when denied regular intake (much like every other drug), but your body also adapts to it over time, so you need more of it to get the same... high, shall we say? :) All this sounds wayyyy too ominous to take advantage of. It just doesn't sound healthy for me. How have you resolved this dilemma?

Edited by Free Capitalist
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Elle, you have written a very interesting post, specifically about the withdrawal symptoms and such. I'm kind of curious how you combined the fact that you felt it was "ridiculous to be so dependent on something" as to have physical (as opposed to imagined) withdrawal symptoms from it, and yet continue using it.

For myself, I drink coffee when I absolutely have to keep myself from falling asleep, which sometimes happens on deadlines. At all other times the strongest thing I drink is tea, and most of the time just soda, juice, milk, etc. I am very averse to ingesting substances that make a very strong physiological impact on my body; coffee not only causes the body pain when denied regular intake (much like every other drug), but your body also adapts to it over time, so you need more of it to get the same... high, shall we say? :thumbsup: All this sounds wayyyy too ominous to take advantage of. It just doesn't sound healthy for me. How have you resolved this dilemma?

If you are truly dependant on caffeine you will go through a sort of withdrawl. I didn't really notice the withdrawls but some people in the office became VERY grouchy, well moreso than usual, had headaches etc. when my sales assistant switched us to decaf. I remember that was when some of the brokers started getting coffee from the cart outside the office. It was as if they subconciously realized they weren't getting the kick. But then again we were drinking a lot more coffee than normal people do.

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By far one of the more dangerous effects of excessive coffee consumption is the damage it can do to your stomach. I have to drink excessive amounts myself in order to stay awake at work (I work third shift). After working nights for a while I noticed that no matter how much sleep I got, I still never felt totally rested. (If anyone can offer some advise in respect to that I'd appreciate it).

Coffee is very acidic and so is tea, but to a much lesser extent. After switching to green tea I noticed that I felt better and I think it is even more effective than the coffee.

I have however never experienced anything like coffee withdrawl...

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I have however never experienced anything like coffee withdrawl...

I have, the day after I moved into my current residence. Moving, as you might imagine, involves getting quite thirsty when done in the summer, and since there wasn't much else to drink besides DnL, I had about 10 cans of it.

The next day, I had a splitting headache the likes of which I had never known. Nothing cured it until I had another DnL, then it stopped dead. I'll occasionally get much milder headaches if I eat lunch late (and therefore have my caffeine late).

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CNN had an article online today about the cancer-preventative effects of coffee. Apparently (in a study done in Japan) the incidence of liver cancer was halved in those who reported at least one cup of coffee a day. And the incidence decreased for increased coffee consumption! This, apparently, isn't just one of those flash-in-the-pan studies that newsmen like to bring up every now and then, because it appears the effects of caffiene have had the same effects on rats, which is what prompted the study.

http://www.cnn.com/2005/HEALTH/conditions/...r.ap/index.html

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CNN had an article online today about the cancer-preventative effects of coffee. Apparently (in a study done in Japan) the incidence of liver cancer was halved in those who reported at least one cup of coffee a day. And the incidence decreased for increased coffee consumption! This, apparently, isn't just one of those flash-in-the-pan studies that newsmen like to bring up every now and then, because it appears the effects of caffiene have had the same effects on rats, which is what prompted the study.

http://www.cnn.com/2005/HEALTH/conditions/...r.ap/index.html

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Elle, you have written a very interesting post, specifically about the withdrawal symptoms and such. I'm kind of curious how you combined the fact that you felt it was "ridiculous to be so dependent on something" as to have physical (as opposed to imagined) withdrawal symptoms from it, and yet continue using it.

... How have you resolved this dilemma?

Good question. I've cut down, when possible, mainly because drinking lattes is an expensive habit and the occaisonal splitting headache just isn't worth it. However, coffee has helped me function past the point of exhaustion a lot lately - and I am recovering now from that (thanks to some reprioritizing on my part) and I am going to try to new approach (working out in the morning) to increase my real energy level instead of being dependent on a temporary hold-over until I can finally go to sleep.

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