Assistant InsideOut Editor
On Tuesday, Nov. 15, SHEC (Student Health Education Center) hosted the 3rd annual addictions awareness campaign in the MUSC atrium. Students had the opportunity to check out the different venues, each of which provided information on some form of addiction directly or indirectly affecting students. The awareness fair accommodated information booths that ranged from technology based addictions to eating disorders.
One important – though rarely discussed addiction – was not included, however: caffeine addictions.
Caffeine addictions aren’t as dangerous as alcohol or drug addictions, and can be seen as more of a reliance rather than an addiction. Certainly in terms of an individual’s health, anorexia nervosa is far more detrimental then a silly reliance on a daily cup of coffee, but despite these obvious differences, caffeine addictions are certainly more deserving than a passing glance.
As university students, we often turn to caffeine as a quick fix to most of our stress induced problems. We wake up in the morning subconsciously craving that bold aroma of coffee or tea; we guzzle down energy drinks in preparation for exams and final assignments; we turn to caffeine as a method to our most horrendous hangover solutions. Caffeine is a substance used by most university students.
Some simply enjoy the taste while others find themselves longing for the caffeine buzz day after day. Regardless, the reality is that a significant number of individuals are accustomed to consuming caffeine, thus are we right to assume caffeine consumption can be an addictive tendency?
According to Medicinenet.com, “caffeine is considered the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world. Approximately 90 per cent of adults consume it on a daily basis, and research is being done on its health benefits and consequence.”
Caffeine is the popular name for trimethylxanthine and the ingestion of such products provides a feeling of alertness. The most common sources of caffeine found in our diet consists of coffee, tea, cocoa beans (chocolate), pop, and energy drinks. Research has shown that an individual’s caffeine reliance can be categorized in terms of dosage. A low to moderate intake of caffeine would be approximately 130 to 300 mg per day. A moderate intake would be 200-300 mg per day, high doses are above 400 mg
per day, and heavy caffeine consumption would reach more than 6,000 mg per day.
For perspective, one cup of coffee contains an average of approximately 135 mg of caffeine, a 1 ounce shot of espresso contains 40 mg of caffeine, and brewed tea holds 53 mg of caffeine. Essentially, if you have at least three cups of coffee per day, you’re already in the high dose range of caffeine consumption.
Energy drinks are the largest culprit when it comes to ingesting caffeine. For example, a 16 ounce bottle of full throttle contains 144 mg of caffeine, 16 ounce monster energy contains 160mg of caffeine, and red bull contains 80mg of caffeine.
For students, using caffeine to get that added boost in the midst of exam season is a common practice.
“If I need something to help me stay awake for some last minute cramming, I’ll have a couple energy drinks and pull an all-nighter,” says Michael Smith, a third-year Commerce student.
Fourth year psychology student Mireille Lemelin considers herself to be addicted to caffeine. Lemelin falls under the moderate to high dose range of caffeine intake consuming approximately two to three cups of coffee per day.
“I would say that I’m heavily reliant on caffeine because I get headaches and I become irritable if I don’t have it. It’s a habit and I find it hard to focus passed 1 or 2 p.m. if I haven’t had coffee that day.”
Caffeine works by stimulating the heart and nervous system and causes messages to be translated and conveyed more quickly. In the most basic terms, the chemical adenosine is activated in the nervous system during physical activity and often tires an individual; the consumption of caffeine creates a similar affect as the cell assumes caffeine for the adenosine chemical, however, instead of slowing the body down, the caffeine speeds the nervous system up. Thus, the caffeine high is stimulated, however lasts only a couple of hours resulting in the dreaded caffeine crash hours later.
Withdrawal symptoms from caffeine include headaches, fatigue, decreased energy, irritability, decreased alertness, drowsiness, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and flu-like symptoms such as vomiting and nausea. The onset of these symptoms will ensue 12-24 hours after the abstinence of caffeine. Over the next couple of days, the peak intensity of withdrawal symptoms will occur, however once the initial difficulties have passed caffeine generally becomes less and less of a necessity or craving.
Many students fail to perceive a caffeine addiction as anything serious, however ingesting copious amounts of caffeine can have serious side effects. Using caffeine to deny the body sleep is not healthy and will eventually result in the infamous caffeine crash.
Caffeine may keep your body alert for a one hour lecture, but you’ll soon be falling asleep at the dinner table. Despite the obvious sleep deprivation caffeine induces, we realize that as students at points we have little time for sleep. We run on five hours of sleep or less and down latte after latte, it’s a part of the university lifestyle.
Boycotting caffeine completely is absurd and unrealistic, especially as a student; however, even a small intake of caffeine can have an effect on your immune system and lead to withdrawal symptoms.
It’s important to sleep properly, eat properly, and sustain a relatively healthy lifestyle, remember, if your caffeine reliance trumps such a lifestyle, then it’s probably time to admit your addiction.