The drug that fuels the world

Do you consider yourself an addict to a psychoactive substance? I guess most would not do so. However, there is a strong chance that you are and have been for years.

Raffael Hüberli
9 min readJul 8, 2021

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There are many psychoactive substances in the world, yet the impact on our society of the one we find in the brown liquid we consume daily is second to none. While morning rituals are as individual as people themselves, most involve a nice cup of coffee or tea. With that comes the first dose of caffeine for the day, perhaps followed by more throughout the day. In our modern age, having some kind of caffeinated drink in the morning is deeply rooted in our society. Yet, not many people know the profound impact and effect that caffeine has and had on us.

However, before investigating how caffeine changed the world, it makes sense to investigate why it even exists.

Why does caffeine exist?

Caffeine is an alkaloid found in various plants, among them the Coffea plant as well as the camellia sinesis plant, the basis for black tea, green tea, and others. Furthermore, there are also plants that have minute amounts of caffeine in their nectar. Thus, there is a variety of ways on where caffeine can be found in plants and why it even is produced in the first place.

Even though there is the previously pointed out variety, the primary purpose of caffeine in most plants is as a pesticide. Most insects do not react well to caffeine, and the drug can seriously affect the insects. An interesting study showed that spiders that were exposed to caffeine web almost useless nets. Yet caffeine isn’t particularly good at killing insects.

However, even though killing off the pest might seem more effective, this would only be so in the short term. If the plant’s pesticide would kill the pest, the resistant insects would be favored, rendering the pesticide useless. Hence, it is ingenious to affect the insects in a way that makes them harmless for the plant.

Spider webs after the spider was exposed to the substance. By NASA — Noever, R., J. Cronise, and R. A. Relwani. 1995. Using spider-web patterns to determine toxicity. NASA Tech Briefs 19(4):82. Published in New Scientist magazine, 29 April 1995. http://www.caffeineweb.com/?p=15, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7802572

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Raffael Hüberli

A swiss enthusiast for tech, sports, writing and more. Either you find me throwing a football, skiing down a mountain or sitting in front of my computer.