Students rely on caffeine during stressful times
April 19, 2013
Too tired for that 9 a.m class? Have an energy drink to wake up. Have a test to tomorrow? Grab a coffee to stay focused. These are all natural tendencies, but at what point will our bodies become addicted to caffeine? It’s in nearly every soda, and the main drinks at Einstein’s all include caffeine as well. However, with final projects and tests just weeks away, students realizing the end is near are depending on caffeine when stress levels get high.
It’s 6 a.m. and junior Alex Mackley has just left the chemistry floor of Haldeman-Thiessan. He’s been busy gathering data for his research project, working on chemistry homework and finishing up calculus problems. After spending ten hours in HT, Mackley’s first instinct is to grab a cup of coffee. His day will start back up at 10 a.m. and continue until 6 p.m. with only a few short breaks in between. Afterwards, he fills his spare time with homework, band, labs, work or Zeta Beta Tau meetings.
“I find myself grabbing a coffee or drinking Mountain Dew throughout my day,” Mackley said. “I am chalked full of caffeine. I’ve had five cups of coffee today already.”
For Mackley, coffee is a wake up tool. It’s been integrated into his daily routine. However, he also suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) which causes him to lose focus. Sitting down at the interview, he can’t sit still and admits his ADD prescription needs to be refilled. His prescription helps increase his focus.
“I think that’s part of why I’ve had so much coffee already today,” Mackley said. “[My medicine] overpowers the effects of the caffeine, but without caffeine I know I wouldn’t get things done. Before I was prescribed medicine for my ADD, I drank even more coffee than I do now.”
Coffee is most prevalent in mornings or evenings, as it acts as a stimulant to wake students up or keep them fighting off sleep in order to finish things. According to Professor Brad Sturgeon in the Chemistry Department, caffeine affects the body more than most people realize.
According to Sturgeon, caffeine is an exogenous material—something that is outside of the body that we bring into our body. Our bodies naturally produce a compound called adenosine which binds to certain receptors in our bodies. When that binding takes place, our bodies get tired. Caffeine blocks the body’s adenosine production. The important thing to remember about caffeine, according to Sturgeon, is that the body absorbs 100 percent of the caffeine we put into it. No caffeine will be automatically passed through the body and it takes approximately 30-60 minutes to absorb all the caffeine from one drink.
“If it says 100 milligrams on the package, the body will absorb all of that,” Sturgeon said.
However, the more concentrated a caffeine product is, the faster the body will be able to absorb it.
“A cup of coffee and a 5 Hour Energy may have the same amount of caffeine, but the body will process them differently.” Caffeine also has a half-life. According to Sturgeon, a typical cup of coffee has a half-life of three hours. So three hours after drinking a coffee with 100 milligrams, the body will still have 50 milligrams in its system.
Biochemically, caffeine poses no real dangers, according to Sturgeon, even though it can affect mood and behavior. “When you have a lot of caffeine in your system, we tend to make decisions based on our body’s tired state and we fight our body’s natural inclination to take a nap. Because of that, we might not make the best choices.”
But just as Mackley’s daily schedule suggests, students at Monmouth College are heavily involved and often rely on caffeine for its easy accessibility and fast results.
“I think students here are put under a lot of external pressure, and resorting to drinking caffeine may be necessary for students to finish out their day,” Sturgeon said sipping his own cup of coffee.
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