By Madi Allen
We’ve all been there — it’s 2 a.m., you just finished a paper that’s due in three hours, and you haven’t even started studying for a test you have the next day. The automatic next step is to turn on the Kuerig you got for high school graduation and make yourself another cup of coffee.
College students feel a need to constantly work. Oftentimes students choose to focus on school and social life, neglecting their sleep, and let a caffeine habit fill in the gaps. When it comes to turning in an assignment on time or getting a full eight hours of sleep, students choose schoolwork and their deep sleep cycle suffers.
“When people begin to drink more than the recommended 300 milligrams of caffeine a day, they can begin to suffer withdrawal,” said Stan Wilfong, registered dietician and lecturer in nutrition science. “Minor symptoms like headaches, irritability and difficulty concentrating can occur.”
The DSM-5, a 2013 manual published by the American Psychiatric Association that includes all recognized mental health disorders, lists caffeine intoxication as a clinical syndrome. Caffeine intoxication is described by the following: recent consumption of caffeine and five or more symptoms that develop during or shortly after caffeine use, including restlessness, nervousness, excitement, insomnia, flushed face and gastrointestinal complaints. People who do not consume caffeine regularly have a higher risk of this, but anyone who consumes more than what their body is used to or can handle is at risk.
“I usually drink four to six cups of coffee a day, even more if it’s a busy week,” said Naperville, Ill., sophomore Addy Hubbard.
The NDP group, a company that researches consumers and analyzes trends, found in 2002 that about 25 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds reported they drank coffee on a regular basis. In 2012 those numbers spiked to 39 percent. This is a growth of 14 percent in 10 years on the amount of coffee drunk by 18- to 24-year-olds.
Many college students follow this same habit. A cup or two in the morning to wake up, one in the afternoon to prevent a crash and another at night to keep themselves awake during the long hours of studying.
“I have a real addiction,” Houston junior Carla Resendez said. “I get headaches when I don’t drink it and use coffee as a way to keep me going.”
According to the FDA, the U.S. population older than 14 consumes about 353 beverages containing caffeine per year, equaling about three servings per day.
“Though too much caffeine isn’t great for you, the real danger are energy drinks,” Wilfong said. “People who drink too many of these begin to develop heart problems and could wind up in the hospital.”
Many students use caffeine to stay up late in order to keep up with their peers who are vying for graduate school. Graduate programs are becoming more and more competitive. According to usnews.com, Oklahoma State University had the highest acceptance rate for medical schools in the fall of 2013, with an average of only 21.5 percent, the lowest acceptance rate that year was Moorhouse Medical School in Georgia with an acceptance rate of 1.6 percent. Pressure to perform and succeed in college has never been greater. For many, grad school is the standard and necessary if they hope to get a job in their desired field.
Is caffeine just a stepping-stone to achieving that desired success?