The highs and lows of caffeine splurging

May 24, 2017 — by Karen Chow and Victor Liu

Reporters interview students about how often they drink coffee and the postives and negatives outcomes that come with it.

Walk the halls of the school, and you’ll see students like junior Anya Srivats with Starbucks cups in hand as they rush to their next class.

She started drinking coffee at the age of 13 and has built a dependency on it over the years. She now drinks two to three cups of coffee daily.

“I think coffee really helps me get through the day, especially since I don’t get much sleep because of the classes I chose to take,” Srivats said.

According to The U.S. National Library of Medicine, coffee becomes harmful to drink  after 400 mg (around 4.7 8-oz cups); espresso after five 2-oz shots; and energy drinks after five 250 mL cans. Too much caffeine can lead to restlessness, shakiness, insomnia, headaches and abnormal heart rhythm.

Although she’s well aware of caffeine’s negative side effects, Srivats thinks she would not be as productive at school without caffeine.

“Once I came to school without having coffee and I literally fell asleep in all my classes,” said Srivats. “I couldn’t retain any of the information that was being taught.”

Considering how long she has been relying on caffeine, Srivats doesn't think she will cut down on her consumption anytime soon.

Unlike Srivats, junior Evelyn Ha only started drinking coffee last semester because she liked its taste and soon became reliant on it. Before eventually quitting after winter break, she was consuming around three shots of espresso after coming home from school.

While still drinking coffee, Ha noticed a similar productivity dip when she did not get her daily dose of caffeine in the afternoon.

“I felt really tired when [I didn’t drink coffee last semester],” Ha said. “I think I needed it because I was really busy in the fall with two hours of cheerleading every day on top of trying to balance the coursework in AP US History and AP Biology.”

Ha’s transition away from caffeine, on the other hand, came with more side effects. After her schedule cleared up in second semester, she decided to try to get off caffeine. She initially felt less energetic after her coffee withdrawal, but eventually adapted to the lack of caffeine.

Similar to a drug withdrawal (although to a far lesser extent), a caffeine withdrawal occurs when a regular caffeine consumer suddenly curbs their habit. Symptoms of a caffeine withdrawal include headaches, drowsiness and difficulty concentrating, all of which Ha experienced in the immediate weeks after quitting coffee.

“I was really tired when I didn’t have coffee and I realized that being dependent on caffeine wasn’t necessarily healthy,” Ha said. “During the winter, after cheer stopped, I was able to quit because I was less busy, so everything worked out.”

Likewise, junior Nathan Peng thought quitting caffeine was a goal worth aiming for.

In his case, he stopped drinking Red Bull a few months ago and has realized that he can sleep earlier instead of having to depend on caffeine and energy drinks to stay up and study. Ridding himself of his caffeine dependency motivated him to effectively manage his time better and set an earlier bedtime.

“I quit [drinking Red Bull] because I felt like I was spending too much money on something that only gave me slightly more energy that I could have gotten from a good night's sleep,” Peng said.