Is your caffeine dependence worth it?

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As you wake up, you pour yourself a hot, delicious cup of coffee. However, you may not realize that caffeine is an insecticide created by the coffee bean plant, tea leaves and cocoa beans millions of years ago and can have negative effects.

According to the National Library of Medicine, 92% of college students have reported having caffeine within a 30-day span. But how much caffeine is too much? A study by Villanova University observed that college students consume 400-500 milligrams of caffeine a day, which is almost twice the recommended amount and can cause numerous health issues.

Graphic by Kenzie Akins.

Webster Student Health Services Registered Nurse Lashawn King explained how caffeine stimulates the brain and affects  the central nervous system. These effects make it habit-forming.

“Caffeine is a drug and you can become addicted to it,” King said.

School and work responsibilities can make it difficult for college students to get enough sleep. And since caffeine is a stimulant, it can cause sleep issues when consumed in the evening.

Webster freshman Donni Mitchum said they drink up to four cups of coffee a day, which is 400 milligrams of caffeine total. They explained that it doesn’t have the same effect it used to have on them due to overconsumption.

“I’m pretty sure caffeine has lost its effects on me. Not going to lie, I just drink it because it tastes good,” Mitchum said.

Some student athletes rely on caffeine to give them energy before exercising. According to clevelandclinic.org, pre-workout supplements contain 150-300 milligrams of caffeine, which is the equivalent of chugging three cups of coffee.

Already exceeding the recommended limit, combining pre-workout supplements with a cup of coffee or an energy drink floods the system with caffeine and can be very dangerous.

“I drink an energy drink and a pre-workout everyday,” an anonymous Webster track athlete said. “Sometimes [I even have] multiple of each.”

Athletes stress their physical and mental status on a daily basis, with caffeine being what keeps them going strong.

Webster baseball player Eli Rompala-Matthews has had a similar experience with how caffeine helps him in his athletic career.

“It feels like crack, and it gives me my energy and makes me lift big weights,” Rompala-Matthews said.

Pre-workout supplements, though energy forming, can have severe effects on your physical health. Healthline.com states that the energy-enhancing supplement may cause high blood pressure, impaired sleep and raised stress.

Volleyball team member Kianna Patton has had her run with pre-workout supplements and the issues they create.

“I took it a lot to have energy for lifting. It focused my energy. I stopped because it became positive on drug tests, so I turned to energy drinks,” Patton said.

While it may have its benefits, caffeine is addictive and habit-forming. King said it is best consumed in moderation.

According to MedicineNet.com, 200 milligrams of caffeine per day is a healthy amount to consume. Factors such as a person’s physical state, drug use, pregnancy and sleep deprivation can impact their suggested caffeine tolerance. Keeping track of one’s caffeine consumption can help prevent overconsuming the addictive chemical.

While stopping caffeine can alleviate some of the health issues associated with overconsumption, caffeine intake must be slowly decreased to avoid further health issues. Sudden withdrawals can cause uncomfortable symptoms including headaches, anxiety, fatigue and mood changes.

Cleveland Clinic reports that quitting “cold-turkey,” or cutting caffeine off completely, increases dependence. The clinic advises those experiencing caffeine withdrawal symptoms to stay consistent and opt for low-caffeine or decaffeinated drinks, as well as drinking more water.

Synthetic caffeine is hard to digest compared to natural caffeine sources. Natural sources of caffeine such as filtered coffee, natural teas and chocolate will do less harm than the synthetic caffeine sources.

The Addiction Center website has many resources that help those addicted to caffeine, including therapy services like BetterHelp. Similarly, Caffeine Addicts Anonymous offers a 12-step recovery plan and support group for caffeine addicts.

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Riley Reed
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