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Coffee Addiction: The Bitter Truth

Maybe you drink it for the health benefits. Maybe for the taste. Maybe you started drinking it because everyone around you was and it seemed normal. Then, when your stress increased in direct proportion to your workload, you found coffee to be your most steadfast companion. It was always there to nudge you and say, "Hey, you’re doing great. Just a few hours more! You’ve got this!"

Coffee is, in moderation, a blessing. Charlie Sommers, MCAS ’21, claims that he is "stuck with coffee for life, which I’m fine with," because of the way it makes him feel in the morning. Maybe you, like Charlie, drink just enough a day so that your productivity is constantly at its crest without ever feeling the crash. Maybe you only drink it when you have a long day ahead. That coffee has benefits is indisputable: it’s loaded with antioxidants, can boost productivity, and can make you more alert to your surroundings.

But then, one day you’re running so late to your 9 A.M. that you reluctantly decide to forgo your caramel latte/double espresso/iced mocha. You’re sitting in Stokes, and the headache hits, followed by unconquerable fatigue. Your mood takes a nosedive, and your day is thrown completely off. When you do manage to get your coffee, it’s too late.

Caffeine addiction goes beyond the person you sit next to in your Calc lecture telling you they "cannot function before I’ve had my coffee." It goes beyond the ironic t-shirt your aunt wears that says, "Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee." If you drink more than three cups a day, you’re likely addicted, and if you’ve ever skipped your fix, you know it too.

It may come as a surprise that caffeine addiction is classified as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is stated that as much as 100mg of caffeine (the equivalent of one cup of coffee) a day can make one addicted enough to experience withdrawal symptoms.

Coffee is so integrated into our culture that it’s not hard to get your daily fix. We meet our friends for coffee. We take it with milk, sugar, cream, or by itself. Coffee and its many accoutrements have grown the industry to around $20 billion, and the National Coffee Association reports that over 83% of adults drink coffee.

However, caffeine addiction doesn't just make you less focused and attentive. It actually meddles with your own perception of stress, making you feel a lot more frazzled than you may be. It also functions like any other drug in that it inflicts an oftentimes sizable financial burden. Still, the most insidious effect of caffeine addiction is that it messes with something Boston College students are already deficient in: sleep.

If you’ve ever found yourself unable to sleep after a long, caffeine-fueled night of studying, it shouldn't come as a surprise that that latte you got right before Chocolate Bar closed is the culprit. And when you combine the effects of a lack of sleep with those of a caffeine withdrawal, you end up with a cranky, moody, unfocused, and overall wasted day.

If you think you’re addicted, you may consider quitting cold turkey. Relying heavily on anything to function is bad, and coffee expenses, especially at BC, can amass considerably. However, there are ways to detox slowly without feeling the effects of withdrawal.

For former coffee addict Emily Buchanan, MCAS ’21, green tea was a great intermediate step that helped her cast away her dependency. "I still had a coffee a couple times a week, but I started most of my mornings with green tea instead." The most important thing, according to Buchanan, is to not quit caffeine suddenly, and to set realistic expectations with regards to cutting down.

There’s nothing wrong with indulging in coffee if you know you have a long day ahead of you. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware that coffee is not without its flaws, and that like any addiction, it can be detrimental.

So next time you head to the Chocolate Bar for your third morning latte, consider opting for tea, juice, or even *gasp* a glass of water. Your body may thank you later.

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