Caffeine: Living Without a Kick Hard for Students



Often noted as a phase when healthy practices are tossed by the wayside, college students everywhere find themselves relying on caffeine to focus throughout the day and to stay awake during the crucial crunch times, when study seems more crucial than sleep.

"I am always tired and don't feel like moving [without caffeine]. No motivation whatsoever," said Mary Troicke, a senior majoring in dance who once attempted to give up her daily coffee and Diet Coke routine.

"I didn't feel motivated to do anything, didn't go to class."

Although caffeine may appear to be one of the more harmless indulgences in comparison with alcohol or illegal drugs, excessive use can be very dangerous to one's well being.

According to the WebMD Web site, caffeine absorbs very quickly into the gastrointestinal tract after ingestion and directly impacts the dopamine levels of the brain, stimulating either pleasant feelings or a sour demeanor.

Two or three beverages a day poses no significant health risk, but excessive consumption can raise blood pressure throughout the day, causing or aggravating such things as peptic ulcers and coronary heart disease. Caffeine also can interact with other medications or homeopathic drug treatments.

Excess consumption also poses additional risks for women. Research has linked caffeine to low birth weight in newborns, as well as fibrocystic breast disease, which is a benign condition but could lead to anxiety with society's heightened awareness of breast cancer warning signs. The condition poses no serious health risk, but does cause swelling, tenderness and discomfort even after discontinuing caffeine consumption, according to HealthWorld Online (http://www.healthy.net).

If anything in the above paragraphs would make you consider giving up your ritual cappuccino, the withdrawal effects of caffeine also should be taken into consideration. Quitting caffeine cold turkey may lead to headaches, nausea, vomiting and drowsiness; a slow reduction of caffeine intake is suggested by experts.

"If I don't have caffeine I tend to have headaches and tend to kind of feel sluggish and tired," said Adrienne Kinkade, a senior majoring in health and human services who favors Mountain Dew as her caffeine source.

Kinkade has attempted to drop her habit "multiple times. I try to give it up for Lent, and I say at least once a month I'm drinking too much soda."

With a Starbucks greeting students as they stumble off their buses every morning and coffee machines crowding every food service vendor on campus, caffeine dependence seems to be inevitable for some. Late nights during semester midterms and the end-of-year crunch can often involve a more serious dose of caffeine with consumption of anti-drowsiness medications such as NoDoz or Vivarin.

If one feels the need to break free of the caffeine habit, however, there are services offered by the Living Well Center, located on the second floor of the Student Union.

"[Caffeine] can affect [students'] health, depending on how much they drink," said Janice Cochran, a dietician who works in the Living Well Center and the Student Health Center on South Campus. For students far past the two to three cup average, "[quitting] is definitely something that should be done gradually."

Students can meet informally with Cochran in the Living Well Center and acquire information and tips on tapering caffeine out of their lives.

Longer-term support programs with a dietician are also possible, with private appointments at the Student Health Center available for students who just can't seem to say no to java.