Psychoactive Drugs

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Joined: Sun Jan 07, 2018 1:05 am

Psychoactive Drugs

Post by lumosmaximus » Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:42 pm

Question about a Khan video about substance use disorders. The video mentions that caffeine cannot cause a substance use disorder due to current guidelines/criteria. I just wanted to know where this addiction criteria was. It seems like if you have to spend increasing amount of money on coffee and experience withdrawl symptoms like irritable mood/headaches, etc. that could potentially be grounds for a substance use disorder. What makes caffeine so special it gets excluded? Thanks in advance!
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Re: Psychoactive Drugs

Post by NS_Tutor_Andrew » Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:40 pm

Hi lumosmaximus,

In a nutshell, what makes caffeine so special is that it's so common and is generally felt to be mostly harmless (I write as I'm polishing off my daily pot of coffee...).

Nonetheless, caffeine dependence is definitely on the radar screen of researchers, and caffeine withdrawal is included in the DSM 5. Additionally, something called "caffeine use disorder" is under study in the DSM 5 for potential inclusion in future editions. Here's an excellent article summarizing these issues, and a slightly shorter one.

This is an interesting example, because it underscores the degree to which DSM content can be thought of as an evolving conversation of sorts between laboratory science/pharmacology, clinical observations, and social norms. The inclusion of tobacco use disorder has a history of its own (see this chapter). Another well-known example of some of these issues is the fact that homosexuality was included as an official disorder in the DSM through 1973 (here's an interesting overview of that piece of history). However, the history of the DSM is not required material for the MCAT, so feel free to read those articles just as interesting background knowledge & as generally useful things to know :).

Hope this helps, & thanks for the excellent question!
Andrew D.
Content Manager, Next Step Test Prep.
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