The Sanka Cure, and Other Questionable Addiction Strategies

Coffee is such an ordinary part of daily existence for most of us that it can be hard to recognize the point at which it's become a bit of a problem. In the Twin Cities, the Star Tribune reported last month that more than half of American adults are addicted, then detailed both the symptoms of a caffeine habit and the difficulties of kicking one:

"Caffeine is a tricky stimulant to shake. Although tolerance levels vary, drinking just 100 milligrams per day—the amount of a small cup of brewed coffee—and then giving it up can lead to withdrawal symptoms ranging from headaches and depression to flulike nausea and muscle pain, according to the National Institutes of Health."

The story is stronger on how to kick the habit (substitute beverages like rooibos tea, which has a rich body) and less clear about why it's worth doing (those of us who are coffee pros hardly need to deal with "extreme energy swings").

Its most intriguing feature, though, comes in passing. The story suggests that the best way to beat coffee addiction is to drink a horrific-tasting coffee substitute:

"After several unsuccessful attempts, Barry Maher managed to quit drinking several quarts of coffee a day by substituting what he called ‘the worst-tasting coffee substitute that ever existed, Sanka.'"

This raises an interesting question: Could this magical crappy coffee cure be extended to other forms of addiction?

FOOD: Subject eats only terrible, low-end fast food in the hope that the low quality of the meals will lead to disgust, thus decreasing appetite. Could it work? Based on the pioneering research of every Southern state and of some Midwestern ones, it would not work. Subject would habituate to fast food and get much, much fatter.

ALCOHOL: Subject drinks only bottom-shelf liquor and the world's cheapest wine in the hope that lousy-tasting booze will break the stuff's hold over him or her. Could it work? Considering that mouthwash has been a viable choice for dedicated alcoholics for generations, the answer, clearly, is no.

DRUGS: Subject buys only the cheapest/most questionably sourced crack/meth/heroin/etc. available on the streets. Could it work? Fifty-fifty chance of a "hitting rock bottom" moment versus a "killed outright" moment. "Risky" is an understatement.

So the verdict, overall, on the effectiveness of the Sanka cure: not so much.

Image source: Flickr member AndyStraw under Creative Commons