Coffee — Tell It Like It Is

When I was in the Air Force, I was stationed for a time at the National Security Agency. It was 1970, still part of the Sixties really, and so a great many people were enjoying marijuana and a great many others were trying to make them stop. Part of the latter campaign included articles like “Marijuana – Tell It Like It Is” which ran in the Agency’s (unclassified) Security Spotlight, v.7, no. 2, April 1970.

After reading the article, I was struck by marijuana’s similarities to coffee, which both the civilians and military personnel drank in prodigious quantities. And so, using the language of the published piece (it was remarkable how little I had to change), I typed up a parallel version, which was privately shared. A short time ago, when I came across the original (and only) copy, I thought, “This deserves wider circulation.” So here it is.

Coffee – Tell It Like It Is

Caffeine is a drug found in the berries of the coffee plant, “Coffea.” The plant grows in warm climates in countries around the world, especially in Yemen, Java, Sumatra, Mexico, Central America and South America. In the U.S., the drug is known as “java,” “brew,” “a cup-full” and by other names.

For use as a drug, the berries of the plant are crushed, separating the seeds from the pulp, and an infusion or decoction is then made from the sun-dried, roasted and ground, or pounded, seeds. The brown product is usually poured into and drunk from small cups or mugs. (These “cups” may be simple paper or plastic; however, they may also be ceramic or metal, and seem to grow increasingly complex and colorful as the user becomes more confirmed, and less casual, in his habit.) The aroma from coffee is acrid to mellow, and sometimes smells like chocolate or tea. Its odor is easily recognized.

The intoxicating constituents of the coffee plant are found in the seeds inside the berry-like fruit. The berries themselves, when prepared for drinking or eating, are known as “beans.”

Drinking coffee requires a special technique. Usually several drinkers will meet in a room (coffee lounge) or “just around the pot.” They may, if avid enough, hole themselves up in a kitchen or at a desk so they can drink as much coffee as possible.

The user takes the “cup,” sips from it, holds the liquid in his mouth, exhales slowly and swallows. As the aroma of coffee fills the room, each user begins to feel the “lift.” With increasing rapidity the cup is passed up to the lips.

Shortly after drinking the liquid, the user notices a feeling of warmth and “inner satisfaction” that is out of proportion to the apparent motivation. If the user is alone, he may watch TV or become active as toxicity increases. In company he may be talkative. His awareness and perception are considerably altered, particularly as they relate to his actual physical condition. He may feel “awake” when actually fatigued.

Coordination is altered, although the user may fail to recognize this, and complex intellectual capacities are altered, particularly those which govern speed, accuracy and retention. The individual’s basic personality is not appreciably changed but his behavioral reactions may be modified. Self confidence, unwarranted, is one of the usual reactions. The user loses his inhibitions in varying degrees. During this early period, he may feel awake and fresh. If a negative influence is introduced, however, he may become anxious, slightly paranoid and apprehensive. This experience is known as “coffee nerves” or “too much coffee.”

The total effects of the coffee “trip” last from one to two hours, after which the user feels slight lethargy and hunger. Experiences will differ since caffeine is a “predictable drug used by unpredictable people with fairly predictable results.”

The psychological effects of caffeine are as varied as the range of personality and as complex as the multiple factors which influence the user each time he drinks. If calm and in a good mood when he takes the drug, he may hum, laugh and joke, enjoying himself harmlessly. Under other circumstances, he may stare and dream.

Although no proof is available that coffee is physically addictive, users develop profound psychological dependencies on the drug. “I just can’t wake up until that first cup of coffee” is a commonly heard excuse for use.

And although no definite causal link has been established between caffeine and “harder drugs,” it would be well to remember that an over-whelming majority of alcoholics, heroin addicts and other drug abusers had experience with caffeine prior to their “final” addiction.

We can no longer sit by and watch people employ the “speed” lift of caffeine in place of good health, proper nutrition, and sufficient rest.



  1. Rob Hoover · · Reply

    Well done…

  2. Funny in retrospect, after all these years. Interesting that some states, including Washington, have actually legalized coffee, first for medical users, then for all. What will they legalize next?

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