Each morning, many Lincoln High School students can be seen walking into school, coffee cup in hand. With this many students drinking coffee, one must wonder if caffeine is truly safe for student use. Caffeine from soft drinks, which are popular among children and teens, has increased within the last decade to seventy percent and in North America between 80 and 90 percent of adults and children consume caffeine regularly.
Caffeine has proven to be the most widely used drug in the world and among students. This drug can be found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and even chocolate. Most students use caffeine for recreation or to help with school and their studies. A student survey conducted in February shows that 62 percent of Lincoln High school Students have admitted to regularly drinking caffeinated beverages, coffee and tea being the most popular.
One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, explains that, “Because of all of the extracurriculars, jobs, community service work, and homework/schoolwork I have after school every day, I often don't get the amount of sleep that my body needs. When my alarm goes off at 5:30 in the morning, it's very rare that I wake up feeling refreshed and awake, and it's unlikely that I will be awake at 7:30. However, it's crucial that I'm awake at 7:30 because falling asleep in class or being so sleepy that I can't focus would be detrimental to my schoolwork and hurt my grades. Caffeine is a simple solution that wakes me up at the beginning of the day and keeps me awake through the rest of the day to keep me alert, focused, and productive.”
Caffeine positively increases alertness, which allows students to be able to concentrate while they are studying. It does this by blocking adenosine, a depressant that triggers drowsiness, therefore providing a temporary boost.
Another student mentioned, “Having a cold caffeinated beverage with me during the first few periods of the day wakes me up fully and helps me focus more on my work.”
“Having coffee to start off the day simply makes it a better one. Coffee is a necessity to get through the day and wakes me up for first period.”
While consuming caffeine definitely has some positive effects, it also comes with harmful changes to the body. Caffeine has proven to cause irregular sleeping patterns if used within four to six hours of going to sleep, making it harder to fall asleep faster and possibly leading to insomnia. To prevent this, it is best to avoid using caffeine during the afternoon or nighttime so it does not mess up sleep cycles.
Caffeine dependence is associated with behavioral and psychological symptoms. Caffeine dependence will lead to withdrawal symptoms, headaches, irritability, depression, and being unable to think clearly if not consuming caffeine. Signs that this is developing include having the mindset that the only method of functioning and waking up in the morning includes caffeine consumption.
Mood altering effects are also associated with caffeine dependence. Low doses lead to happiness, boosts of energy, alertness and sociability. However large amounts consumed lead to mild anxiety, jitteriness, and an upset stomach. High dietary doses of caffeine(200 mg or higher) will increase the risk of anxiety and even panic attacks.
One of the main ways to prevent the dependence of caffeine are drinking decaffeinated coffee or other beverages. This is one of the best ways to prevent this, as withdrawal symptoms can have a major effect on a student. Fatigue, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, work difficulty, anxiety, and even flu-like symptoms are just some of the withdrawal symptoms of caffeine.
While it may make the day a little more bearable for students knowing that they can get through the day with a delicious drink, it is important to understand that large amounts of caffeine are, in fact, unsafe for students. Next time when deciding whether to get a coffee before school, be sure to get a smaller size!