Caffeine Craziness

Drew Cushing, Online Editor

More than ever these days it seems that most high school students consume some amount of caffeine in order to stay up late to finish projects or to be alert during the school day. According to the FDA, about 80 percent of the U.S. population take some form of caffeine everyday.

“I love the taste of coffee, so I have to have it in the morning,” teacher Virginia Condon said. “I take one cup in the morning and one cup in the afternoon, so I don’t take it all day, except I have Diet Coke sometimes too.”

Although caffeine can help in keeping one awake, consuming too much of it can have negative consequences to your health. For example, too much caffeine can cause headaches and, as your body begins to develop a tolerance to caffeine if you continue to drink it, a sudden stop of use can cause nausea and vomiting.

“Caffeine is an effective drug with an unusually safe dose profile,” Dr. Chris Reilly, neuroradiologist at Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital in Minnesota, said. “Like all drugs, its use is influenced by induced tolerance, where people need to take larger doses to obtain the same effect over time. The tolerance curve is less severe than many drugs and withdrawal effects are common but most often limited to headaches and irritability.”

Although Condon believes that coffee is beneficial overall, she does recommend that consumers use it sparingly and said that when she doesn’t have coffee, she gets wicked headaches.

“I started using caffeine regularly the second semester of my freshman year because I had trouble sleeping, so I needed something to keep me awake during the school day,” Audrey O’Donnell ‘16 said. “It got to the point where I would pour a Crystal Light energy drink packet into a Mountain Dew, and then swallow a 200 mg caffeine pill with the entire concoction. I was probably consuming around 950 mg of caffeine on an average day and sleeping three to five hours a night.”

According to Mayo Clinic, it’s safe for most healthy adults to consume 400 mg of caffeine per day, and anything above 600 mg is too much. If a person starts taking caffeine in an amount above 600 mg, they can start to feel changes in mood and also other physical effects.

“My sleep habits became even worse because I had to drink caffeine at night to get my homework done,” O’Donnell said. “It made falling asleep before 2 a.m. nearly impossible. I was jumpy, unfocused, anxious, foggy-brained, dreadfully forgetful and completely unproductive that semester.”

O’Donnell has since reduced her caffeine intake to only coffee, and she doesn’t drink it after 1p.m. during the school week.

These effects can begin to take place because of the tolerance your body develops toward caffeine, and although one may be able to stay awake a little longer, the long term health consequences can be disastrous. Excessive use of caffeine can lead to an irregular heartbeat, trouble breathing, osteoporosis, heartburn or dehydration.  In extreme cases, an overdose of caffeine can even lead to death.

“The main problem with caffeine is that people fail to treat it like a drug,” Reilly said. “An afternoon cup of coffee is twice the dose of afternoon tea of the same volume and may be a lot more likely to lead to loss of sleep that night. Energy drinks are particularly egregious. One 5 Hour Energy is 200mg, compared with 29mg for a can of Coke or 95mg for a cup of coffee.”

So it’s best to weigh your options when deciding whether or not to take some caffeine to help you in your next all-nighter, especially since it’s a substance that actually has no nutritional value.