Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Caffeine = Drugs at Work

Does your job drug test? If they do, I’m sincerely sorry. Not only do they not trust you to do a good job despite what you may do in your free time, but they’re spending money (that could have been your raise) to invade employee privacy.

Hey, it’s not that I support drugs in the workplace; it’s just that I don’t care. If you’re doing a good job, then what does it matter? Unless you’re a bus driver, forklift operator, or wood chipper, I doubt it matters if you’ve got some drugs churning in your system. Some companies probably don’t want you to miss work because you got arrested for drug possession, but again, that’s on you, buddy. Do your work correctly, don’t be stupid, and you’ll keep your job.

However, workplaces don’t test you for alcohol, and for good reasons: It’s legal and widespread, and your boss probably uses it too. Don’t be fooled: Alcohol is a drug, and a very powerful dissociative at that. In fact, if you’re a bus driver, forklift operator, or wood chipper, you’d probably be better off not drinking.

This opens up an interesting topic, though. While we’re busy being intolerant of psychotropic drugs—cannabis and LSD specifically—and are wary of sedatives which mostly consist of opiates and opiate derivatives, our culture tends to embrace stimulants. No, not cocaine or methamphetamine, though there are probably many jobs one could do quite well under the influence of those drugs. I’m talking about caffeine.

This makes your brain scream
A rather large segment of our population needs it to kickstart their brains because of a dependency on it, so it’s ingrained in our culture to have a morning coffee, or several, and then more in the afternoon, or perhaps an energy drink. It’s not just tolerated, it’s actually encouraged.

“You look like you need some coffee!” your boss might say to you as you droopily sloth at your desk. The brain translates this into "You look like shit," of course, and no one really wants to look like they just slept in a dumpster. Your mother warned you about peer pressure, yet you give in and drink the caffeinated brew. It’s like Native American mushroom tea, but without the second head that pops out of your shoulder and the sudden urge to run at full speed through the woods.

Instead, minutes after ingestion the chemicals make their way through your intestinal wall and into your bloodstream, arriving at your brain within seconds. You’re not tired—at least not in the sense that you need to sleep. You’ve got energy, possibly too much. Your legs bounce up and down with anticipation. You’re talking a mile a minute. Your pupils probably dilate.

Drugs all do basically the same thing: They travel through the blood and into the brain, triggering it to release oxytocin, dopamine, and/or endorphins. Stimulants go one step further and inhibit sleep chemicals in the brain so that neurons go into overdrive while happy fun-time chemicals are released. Therefore, the result of caffeine use is euphoria, pain relief, and increased energy—all the characteristics of cocaine and methamphetamine.

Caffeine is seen as a “safe” drug, one in which the consequences of dependency and the behavioral modifications that come from its use are considered relatively harmless. Not only can we perform our daily tasks with as much clarity as before, but we seem to be able to actually focus more intensely on the task at hand. This makes it an ideal drug for use by bus drivers, forklift operators, and wood chippers.

The consequences of dependency are short-term and mild by comparison to harder drugs like heroin, but very similar to other stimulants:
  • Tolerance builds quickly, leading to increased use
  • Overdose can cause an agitated or aggressive mood, heart conditions, and possibly death
  • Withdrawl triggers intense cravings, abnormally sluggish behavior, and severe headaches
All of these symptoms are analogous to cocaine and methamphetamine use, so the behavioral modifications that come from its use would have to be more severe, right? These side-effects include:
  • Rapid mood swings from excited to upset
  • Intense focus
  • Severe irritation leading to aggressive behavior
Wow, also identical to cocaine and methamphetamine! What makes those other drugs so dangerous then? I’m not exactly sure, but I’m certain of one thing: Using caffeine equals using drugs, and we love it in our workplaces.

In fact, I work for a company with a coffee-themed name, a $1,000 coffee machine, and an unlimited supply of Red Bull. Our employees get the job done, are perpetually alert and focused, and don’t punch each other in the face, but we’re all on drugs. We might look normal, but we’re all amped up, filled with both adrenalin and endorphins; we’re re-upping at three in the afternoon, and we’re crashing when we get home. We might not be using the ones that employers screen for, but we’re all on drugs.


  1. I've heard that a faa drug testing is a useful way that is used in order to avoid accidents, injuries or even fatalities at work.

  2. Your WordPress site appears to be totally legitimate. Thanks for sharing.