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Limit your caffeine consumption

HarshawnRatanpal · social issues · opinion · 10/03/2020 · edited

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Caffeine is one of our society’s most normalized drugs. Walk down the average street and anyone of any age can get a Frappuccino from Starbucks, a Monster from 7-Eleven, or a Coke from CVS. Whatever vessel your tastes buds prefer, you can easily get that helpful jolt to start your early morning or your long night. As a long time (ab)user of caffeine, I urge you to limit your caffeine intake. 

I’m not saying caffeine’s not dope. Almost anyone who uses caffeine regularly can attest to its immediate effects; it is often a key ingredient in the recipe of staying awake during late-night study sessions, early morning commutes, and afternoon classes. Additionally, many athletes use caffeine to improve their performance. According to the Center for Occupational and Health Psychology at the School of Psychology at Cardiff University, caffeine, in moderate amounts, has the potential to improve overall alertness and reduce fatigue1.

However, caffeine, like dope, can have a host of negative effects. As caffeine is often used to wake you up, taking it in the evening or even later in the afternoon could give you problems falling asleep when it's time to hit the bed. A later bedtime could then result in less sleep if you have to be awake by a certain time, resulting in less sleep. Less sleep could leave you less alert and more fatigued throughout the day, causing a feedback loop as your need for caffeine once again exists; consequently, a lack of sleep could weaken your immune system, as well as cause weight gain and mood shifts. According to the University Health Service at the University of Michigan, caffeine can cause and lead to increased heart rate and respiration, headaches, anxiety, confusion, and insomnia2.

Additionally, regular caffeine consumption over a long period of time could lead to the development of caffeine dependence, a state in which people would feel withdrawal symptoms if they were to stop taking it. According to study from Dr. Roland Griffiths3, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins, as little as one cup of coffee a day could be enough to cause a dependence:

"The latest research demonstrates, however, that when people don't get their usual dose they can suffer a range of withdrawal symptoms, including headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating,” Griffiths wrote4. “They may even feel like they have the flu with nausea and muscle pain."

Not to mention, costs add up. Let’s say someone bought a single black coffee from Starbucks everyday, which is relatively cheap compared to other drinks. That person would be spending about $2.10 a day, $65 a month, and $781 a year. Of course, many save money with their own coffee makers at home, but at the same time, many buy more elaborate and expensive caffeinated drinks as well, probably about averaging out the median. 

I’m not saying we need laws on the books telling you what to do with your body: your body, your choice. But I think as a society we ought to be more conscious of the effect caffeine has on our lives and the lives around us. People brandish their Starbucks cup like a status symbol, the pretty colors of the monster cans reflect off the same candy aisles where children shop, and it’s genuinely agreed upon that caffeine is a requirement for life, whether it be the 5-Hour Energy you down at midnight to finish studying for calc or the coffee you chug in the morning so you can power through the fact that you hate your job. If society truly requires we ingest this stimulant to function, we ought to rework the fundamental foundation of our society. 

I may sound like a hypocrite advocating that y’all should consume less coffee while I myself consume an admittedly egregious amount. However, while research and arguments on the issue are convincing, my personal experience with the drug was the most persuasive reason for my belief that we ought to lower our consumption. Like many of my peers, I rely on it to propel me past late nights, classes, and tests. While I am using the crutch of caffeine to stay conscious, I hardly feel like I’m in full control of myself. The accelerated heart rate and feelings of restlessness make it feel as though my mind and body are racing against each other, and I’m losing. The worst part, however, is probably the withdrawal symptoms after the caffeine high, plaguing me with headaches and migraines for sometimes days. What makes it worse is the only reliable way I found to immediately remedy the problem was to ingest more caffeine, repeating the cycle. Not to mention, the price of my gas station energy drinks, coffee-shop Frappuccinos, and convenience store Diet Cokes was enough to make a sizable dent in my bank account. 

If you feel trapped in a cycle of dependence and withdrawal, there are plenty of methods that have helped me curb some of my caffeine issues. Above all, gradual reduction in consumption helped me avoid  severe withdrawal problems. Additionally, actually getting a healthy amount of sleep, a balanced diet, and the right amount of exercise produces similar effects to the benefits of caffeine and definitely has fewer negative consequences.  Of course, this can be difficult with tight schedules and mountains of work we hope to conquer before we die.

While caffeine undeniably offers some immediate perks, long-term use can also cause a myriad of health problems, so we should be mindful and wary 
of our caffeine use.

Sources

1: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12204388/

2: https://uhs.umich.edu/caffeine

3: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3777290/

4: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/Press_releases/2004/09_29_04.html)

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