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Campus Chatter

College students and caffeine addiction

Caffeine may be able to get you through an intense late night study session — but that “A” can come at the price of your health.

Over these past three years of college, I have developed an addiction.

I am addicted to caffeine.

Iced tea or a scalding hot latte, freshly brewed coffee or a flat Diet Coke — I don’t care. If it contains caffeine, I will probably drink it.

And I’m not alone; coffee and energy drinks have become staples in many college students’ diets.

But at what point does caffeine dependence become an issue?

By definition, a habit is deemed an “addiction” when stopping that habit causes severe trauma. In the case of caffeine, I need it to function. If I don’t have my morning cup of coffee or mid-day soda, I go through withdrawals and experience excruciating headaches.

Although caffeine is pretty low on the totem pole as far as serious addictions go, addictions in general aren’t healthy. However, there’s something about coffee and caffeine addiction that has become the butt of Millennial jokes — from the Twittersphere to Buzzfeed, coffee is known as the “college kid’s crack.” The Huffington Post recently published an article that playfully supports college students’ need for coffee and highly caffeinated drinks, reminding students of the many benefits that come along with a coffee addiction (after all, it’s all of the antioxidants in coffee that keep your body healthy, right?)

But when the Huffington Post goes on to describe coffee as “the only thing that motivates you to get up and face another day,” it might be a sign that students should start to seriously reflect on their own caffeine habits. 

Like anything consumed in excess, caffeine has major effects on the body. The short-term energy acquired from caffeine consumption quickly turns into an intense crash-and-burn. When students take that first sip of coffee or an energy drink, neuron activity increases, the adenosine receptors that trigger adrenaline flow are disrupted and brain activity starts functioning at a higher level.

But only briefly — when the effects wear off, students are left feeling physically and mentally drained, jittery, irritable and dehydrated. The dependence on caffeine to function forces busy students to increase their caffeine intake in an effort to stay awake, but each time the inevitable crash worsens.

And the consequences of caffeine addiction extend beyond restlessness and a headache: health education specialists at Brown University warn students that consuming large amounts of caffeine can lead to serious long-term effects such as stomach ulcers, elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate and a higher risk of heart disease.

While it’s tempting to throw back the Red Bulls when you have a heavy homework load, the cons of caffeine definitely outweigh the pros. Developing an addiction of any kind is never good — and yes, coffee is included. It’s OK to have a caffeinated pick-me-up every now and then, but perhaps it’s time for college students to set down the coffee cup.

Caffeine may be able to get you through an intense late night study session — but that “A” can come at the price of your health.


Maria Fischer is a junior studying journalism. Email her at

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