Which is More Addictive: Nicotine or Caffeine?

So you’re ready to kick your addiction to nicotine, but just about everything you’ve watched, read and heard suggests using a tobacco replacement or alternative (like Grinds Coffee Pouches) to help you curb cravings and rewire your brain. 

Is caffeine just as addictive nicotine? Does replacing nicotine with caffeine mean you’ll be quitting one vice just to pick up another? 

The short answer is “no.” Keep reading for the long answer.

Caffeine Use, Dependence & Addiction

About 80% of the developed world drinks coffee daily. Benefits from caffeine use include alertness, elevated mood, and increased creativity. Caffeine can also increase feelings of well-being, motivation for work, and the desire to socialize for certain individuals, though not everyone. 

A quick glimpse at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) definitions of substance abuse and dependence clears caffeine from being considered dangerous, since most people are able to maintain their usual responsibilities in the absence of caffeine. Since caffeine use doesn’t pose significant health hazards or incapacitation, it is not believed to be a threat to individuals or society at large.

Addiction is a severe form of substance use disorder which causes an intense focus on using a substance, to the point that it takes over the addict’s life. Addicts keep using the substance they’re addicted to, despite knowing it will cause problems. Applying this definition in the context of drinking coffee, tea and soda is a BIG stretch. For one, using caffeine probably doesn’t cause problems in your life. And for another, caffeine withdrawal is extremely mild.

If your doctor told you to switch to decaf, you’d probably make the switch pretty easily, with the possible exception of a headache or two. But if your doctor ordered you to stop using nicotine, it’s not as easy, right? That’s because the (perceived) benefits of using nicotine are higher and the nicotine withdrawal symptoms are more disruptive. It’s a different drug altogether, and it has much worse effects than caffeine.

Caffeine and Nicotine: Like Comparing Apples to Oranges

If comparing nicotine and caffeine is like comparing apples to oranges, why, then, do they show up together so often? Two words: Big Tobacco.

It’s a tale as old as time, or at least as old as advertising. Robert Jackler, a professor at Stanford University who studies tobacco marketing, has found ads going back to at least 1913 showing people smoking cigarettes while drinking coffee. He thinks tobacco and coffee have always been shown together in an attempt to make tobacco seem essential to everyday life

A particularly damning Surgeon General’s report was published in 1988 stating that “The pharmacologic and behavioral processes that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine.” In a desperate attempt to distance nicotine from such hard drugs, the tobacco industry funded a concerted public relations push to couple nicotine with the more socially accepted stimulant of caffeine. 

This is still happening today, because it’s an effective strategy. Big tobacco companies spend money to fund research that is inherently biased in their favor. Then, they promote the skewed findings to media outlets, who write about the studies. By the time the “research” makes it into the hands of consumers, it appears legitimate. But it’s not, because the research was never legitimate to begin with. It was designed to further an agenda, and that agenda is to get more people addicted to nicotine.

Switch To Grinds. Change Your Life.

If you’re ready to quit tobacco, but are worried about replacing one drug (nicotine) with another (caffeine), don’t be. Caffeine isn’t dangerous to your health and it’s not intoxicating, so the chance of addiction is practically nonexistent. Even better, it comes with some benefits like alertness, motivation, an elevated mood, and increased creativity. 


Our newest flavor, Mint Chocolate, is now available on our website! Get a free can when you place any order.