Campus / News / April 8, 2010

Students’ long hours fuel caffeine addiction

Nobody said that college would be easy. Students are encouraged to eat healthy, drink responsibly, get enough sleep and have an active social life. Though the advice is good, it is not always plausible. Many students have difficulty juggling a healthy social life with an academic life, but adding the recommended amount of sleep time demands a schedule that seems close to impossible.

Sophomore Matt Becker drinks high doses of caffeine in order to get everything done in a day.

“I don’t need caffeine. I mean…I guess I could get enough sleep each night and be just as awake. But if I spent those hours sleeping, I wouldn’t have a social life and I wouldn’t get my homework done,” he said.

Sophomore Charles Ely agrees, and mostly uses the caffeine to power through long work hours.

“I don’t drink that much caffeine, but I need them during projects, mid-terms and finals,” he said.

The statistics suggest Ely is not alone.

“Sales are steady with the exception of mid-terms and finals,” said Outpost manager Bobbi Helander. That is when caffeine drinking peaks. Students begin to rely more and more on caffeine and energy drinks to get the necessary amount of work done.

Some students, however, started drinking coffee and energy drinks because of other reasons.

“I personally like the taste of green Monsters,” said sophomore Peter Thomas. “It’s now, after time, that I’ve become dependent on them for the caffeine.”

Caffeine is addictive and the withdrawal for heavy users is not a pretty sight. Withdrawal symptoms can include irritability, restlessness, extreme difficulty concentrating, headaches, chills, flu-like symptoms, depression and anxiety. Sophomore Ronni Thompson knows the pain of withdrawal all too well.

“I need caffeine. I cannot and will not detox ever again. In 2008 I had my tonsils removed and I wasn’t able to drink coffee or energy drinks for over a few days. I had the worst migraine you could ever imagine. I never want to go through that again,” she said

Withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere between two days and a week.

It does not take a lot to be considered an addict. According to the DSM-IV diagnostic guidelines, only 250mg a day are necessary to deem an individual dependent on caffeine (approximately 2.5 cups of brewed coffee).

“I drink coffee all the time and I don’t see anything wrong with that, but overuse of anything is not good. All that caffeine’s got to do something to your heart,” said sophomore Beth McRill.

Not many parents condone drinking energy drinks.

“My mom definitely doesn’t condone energy drinks, but she’ll still buy me coffee. I think a big part of it is the cost. Energy drinks are expensive,” McRill said.

Caffeine is only lethal when in extremes such as 5-10g, but small doses can be beneficial. Coffee has a lot of praise. According to Fox Health, coffee increases concentration, alertness and motivation as well as lowers the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Caffeine can improve performance and endurance for a hard workout, tempting some athletes toward the “dark side.”

Some people are affected by caffeine and do not even know it. Various levels of caffeine can be in chocolate, root beers, cream sodas and some yogurts. These are obviously in significantly lower amounts than in energy drinks but caffeine will affect the body if enough is consumed.

Sophomore Michael Martinez scoffs at his friends.

“I don’t need energy drinks. At first I thought that I wanted to stay away from them so that if I needed to pull an all-nighter, I’d have a good back-up plan. But I pulled three all-nighters on my own, so now I just see no point in it,” he said.

Martinez has nothing against energy drinks or people who use it. “My family doesn’t really drink caffeine, and I don’t have anything against it. The thing is […] my friends have playfully teased me enough that it’s not an indifferent thing anymore.”

At the end of the day, Martinez does not mind much.

“My friends pressure me to drink Monsters but I don’t feel any serious pressure to do anything,” he said.

Doctors are even praising coffee, but the praise of energy drinks is nowhere as high. An article on WebMD said there is significantly more research showing the effects of coffee are “far more healthful than it is harmful.” Coffee may be in the clear, but heavy caffeine users beware.

Energy drink stats:

Winter Term Energy Drink Sales:


897 Monsters

123 Monster four-packs

232 Bawls

368 Red Bulls

83 AMP

Grab & Go:

736 Monsters

How energy drinks rank to other drinks at Knox College:


1,839 Naked Juice (top-selling drink)

1,083 Vitamin Water

1,049 Gatorade

Grab & Go:

4,201 Naked Juice


Sara Koehnke

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