Your daily dose

Most everyone knows the feeling—headache, drowsy, trouble concentrating. Maybe you are irritable, anxious, or have suddenly become very clumsy—all simply because you missed your morning dose of caffeine.
It is estimated that in North America between 80 to 90 percent of the adults and children consume caffeine daily.  Caffeine is the most commonly used mood-altering drug in the world.  According to the website of the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, “in the United States the average per capita daily intake among adult caffeine consumers is 280 milligrams (the equivalent of 17 ounces of brewed coffee or 84 ounces of soft drink).  Studies show that 30 milligrams or less of caffeine can alter self-reports of mood and affect behavior and 100 mg per day can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms upon abstinence.”
According to Starbucks employee Whitney Buckingham, in their store (which has only been open for about 8 months), there are approximately 100 “regulars,” some of whom come in more than once a day. Though the most common demographic seen within these coffee houses tend to be people who are working, which often include a high number of college students.
Caffeine may be great for an all-night cram session, and it may help give busy college students such as ourselves that extra boost needed to get through a day packed full of homework, class, work and activities. However, when consumed improperly, caffeine can have some drawbacks of its own and may add to stress rather than relieve it. As with any drug, there are even some dangers that come with overuse.
Studies have shown that high consumption of caffeine in quantities of 200 mg or more tend to increase anxiety and induce panic attacks in the general population. Individuals who have panic and anxiety disorders already are especially sensitive to the effects of caffeine. In a highly stressful environment such as college or the workplace, the stress already involved is compounded by anxiety added by overconsumption of caffeine. This can lead to modest increase in blood pressure, stress related disorders and problems, decreased sleep and complications that arise from that.
In addition, other concerns have been raised about the role that caffeine might play in cardiovascular disease.  According to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, “caffeine use can be associated with several distinct psychiatric syndromes: caffeine intoxication, caffeine withdrawal, caffeine dependence, caffeine-induced sleep disorder and caffeine-induced anxiety disorder.”
Also, caffeine works as a short-term appetite suppressant.  Though it has not been linked to dangerous weight loss, one must still remember that during stressful times one cannot survive solely on coffee alone. You may feel full and feel as though you can keep hacking away at that pile of homework; but really, it is important to remember that proper nutrition will provide one with longer lasting energy without the added health risks.
Caffeine should not be used as the basis of one’s nutrition, rather, as an addition to proper eating and proper sleep. Then one will be more likely to consume caffeine in reasonable and responsible amounts and not run as much danger of caffeine-related problems.
Living just down the road from “Coffee-Capital-USA” and home to the original Starbucks (and about 400 others, not to mention the other coffee brands…), coffee remains very accessible. With college students in particular, a high-stress environment sometimes requires an extra boost to get going first thing in the morning or one in the evening to be able to keep going. Whatever the case, the message is not that caffeine is a bad thing and that one should abstain from it. Rather, just that, as with anything, one should be responsible.