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“Suppose you’re working in computer technology,” Mr. Weinberg said. “Caffeine ramps up spatial reasoning. It relieves boredom at repetitive tasks. It’s a mental booster, helping us accomplish the things that more and more are demanded of us in life.”

The history of caffeine consumption is more or less the history of the modern world, according to Mr. Weinberg and co-author Bonnie Bealer. Prior to the 1700s, Europeans drank copious amounts of beer — even for breakfast — because water was largely unsafe.

With the widespread adoption of coffee and tea, however, Western civilization swapped its daylong, semi-drunk alcoholic stupor for energy, alertness, attentiveness and sociability. One result? Intellectuals gathered in coffee shops, spawning (among other things) the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.

“Visit churches in Europe, and the tour guides will constantly point out that so-and-so fell off the rafters,” Mr. Weinberg said. “The reason they fell off is that they were drunk all the time.

“When caffeine swept over Europe, it changed the nature of society. It gave people a way to control and harness their energies, helped to initiate the industrial economy. That requires a different kind of discipline and mental focus than agrarian work.”

As for today? We’re stressed and squeezed by economic turmoil in a hypercompetitive global economy that places a premium on knowledge and mental-task completion. We’re surrounded by round-the-clock entertainment, stimulated at every turn. We’re a nation of working fathers and mothers, strapped for family time. We’re an older generation of baby boomers who refuse to dodder into our golden years and a younger cohort of millennials who keep our smart phones bedside.

In short, we need caffeine — and other energy boosters — more than ever. The rise of Starbucks corresponds with the rise of the Internet.

“What’s really boosted this up in the past 20 years is that now everybody is connected to a portable transmission and reception device, expected and available to be working all the time,” Mr. Thompson said. “It used to be you went home at 5:30, then got into the office the next morning and had messages. Now, you’re constantly checking email. Our lifestyles need stimulants to keep up with things.”

Without caffeine, Mr. Weinberg argues, modern life would be slower. Sluggish. Altogether drearier. Collectively, we would drag a lot more and accomplish a lot less. And that, in turn, raises a question.

Are we hopelessly hooked?

Consider an executive X who gets up at 5:30 a.m. every day, proposes Mr. Thompson. “Could she or he not do their job without a certain dosage of caffeine a day? If the answer to that is no, that’s an interesting thing to consider.”

Upper madness?

In 2009, a man who claimed to have found a mouse in his Mountain Dew can filed a lawsuit against PepsiCo, which owns the brand. As part of its defense, attorneys for the company recently argued that the soft drink — a favorite energy-booster among exam-cramming students and up-all-night video game players everywhere, a neon-green liquid countless Americans willingly and happily pour into their stomachs — would have dissolved the dead rodent’s carcass into a “jellylike substance.”

Yuck. Such is the downside of perking ourselves up.

A recent report from the White House Office of Drug Control expressed concern about college students illegally taking prescription stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin to remain awake and ultra-focused while studying. News reports anecdotally suggest that similar drug abuse is taking place among young professionals.

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