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Yuki Klotz-Burwell

Buy, drink, revive, repeat. Junior Megan Doyle is an admitted ‘coffeeholic,’ and after driving to her internship in L.A. on only a few hours of sleep, she drank eight cups of coffee in one day. Although it stopped her from falling asleep in the bumper-to-bumper traffic, Doyle said she experienced adverse side effects.

“I thought I was going to explode and die,” said Doyle, a business administration major. “I felt anxious for the entire day, and I had to stop drinking coffee for a week after that.”

The recommended daily dosage is no more than 250 milligrams of caffeine, or the equivalent of three cups of coffee, according to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s website on nutrition in young adults. Young adults are also consuming more coffee in general; in 2011, the amount of American 18-24 year olds who consume coffee grew nine percent from previous years, according to Reuters.

However, with constant homework assignments and activities, many Chapman students say they consume more than the recommended daily intake, regardless of the side effects.

“I need to be awake, and that usually takes a few cups of coffee before I’m fully up,” Doyle said. “I like the taste of it and sometimes I crave it, so I just keep buying more.”

Sophomore Mari Lundin says that when she got to college she became dependent on coffee, and now drinks it up to four times a day.

“I started drinking Frappuccinos as a treat in elementary school, but it became a habit in high school,” said Lundin, a business administration and creative writing double major. “I’d say I drink 24 ounces a day minimum, but I usually drink 40, and up to 64 ounces if I have to go to class after working or pulling an all-nighter.”

Lundin’s intake equates to about five to seven cups a day, which is almost twice the recommended average.

Students at universities across the country are also consuming more coffee. At Indiana University, one dining hall had to implement a four espresso shot limit after one student asked for 20 shots of espresso in 2016. The university brought in a dietitian to evaluate the situation, and came up with the four shot maximum because the professional believed it to be a “healthy and safe limit of caffeine.”

The Starbucks on Chapman’s campus allows students to add an espresso shot for 80 cents. Eric Cameron, the general manager for Chapman’s restaurant services, says that he’s noticed more students opting to purchase the additional shots.

“Students often order drinks with a lot of caffeine by adding espresso shots to drinks,” Cameron said. “I’m not sure why they’re drinking coffee, but they do consume a good amount.”

Cameron says that the Starbucks is usually packed with Chapman students from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Students, too, notice the increase of coffee consumption among their peers.

“The line at the Starbucks in Beckman seems to grow longer every day,” Lundin said. “I’ve started using the drive-thru Starbucks​ ​on Tustin Avenue because it takes half the time.”

Even students who drink only one cup per day have found themselves relying on the caffeine to power them up.

“I drink about 10 ounces of coffee every morning, and I now am dependent on this to start my day,” said Tamlyn Doll, a freshman public relations and advertising major. “It’s hard for me to get things done without drinking coffee first, which is probably not a great thing.”

Besides the initial boost of energy, caffeine can bring negative side effects. Frank Frisch, a physiology professor at Chapman, says that while studies haven’t found any serious long term negative effects of caffeine, there are short term effects caused by drinking coffee.

Caffeine contains an agent that elevates the resting potential of nerves, resulting in enhanced nerve excitability. Frisch says that this means that people’s actions are faster after drinking coffee, and they are more prone to causing mistakes since their neurons are stimulated more easily.

“If you’re drinking caffeine, smaller actions will cause your neurons to fire, and it’s harder to control your actions,” he said. “Too much coffee will cause irritability and the nerves will fire inappropriately because they’re so close together. You want to have a distance, and caffeine makes the nerves grow closer together.”

For Lundin, coffee can heighten her consciousness and cause her to become more shaky than normal.

“I’ve had nights when I haven’t been able to fall asleep until 4 or 5 am because I drank too much coffee and have too much caffeine in my system,” Lundin said. “I get really shaky, too, if I drink a lot without eating first.”

Junior Brooke Metayer says she usually drinks one cup of coffee a day, and more than three cups cause her to become jittery.

“I just drink coffee to maintain normal brain function,” said Metayer, a dance and public relations and advertising double major. “But if I drink coffee past 5pm, I will not sleep that night. If I drink a big one of those Starbucks iced coffees, I will shake uncontrollably.”

While some students continue to drink coffee despite the side effects it brings, others have recognized the ways in which caffeine individually affects their bodies, and taken action.

Senior business administration major Beau Barker finds coffee to be too acidic for him, and is weaning off of the drink. He said he used to drink three cups a day and one cup of decaffeinated coffee at night, but had to stop because lately, he started feeling off after consuming it.

“I can feel my body rejecting the amount of coffee that I’m drinking,” he said. “It’s really acidic, and it’s not necessarily good for your health if you have too much of it. It really messes with me.”

According to Frisch, Barker is right; when taken in moderation, the effects of caffeine aren’t as bad as if you intake a substantial amount. Similar to alcohol and junk food, coffee consumption should be measured and done in moderation.

“It’s all about quantity,” Frisch said. “There’s a bell-shaped curve, and if you take too much, you fall off that curve. If you consume a normal amount of caffeine, the effects will be small.”

However, even for those like Barker who stopped drinking coffee, the negative effects can still continue. People who get habituated to drinking coffee often become reliant on it, resulting in frequent headaches when they stop drinking it.

Alex Cowan, a senior psychology major, used to drink three cups of coffee in the morning before she even went to school. She stopped because the caffeine caused her anxiety to act up, and she felt herself becoming addicted to the drink. Still, for her, the consequences from stopping were even worse than the effects of drinking too much coffee.

“I went through caffeine withdrawals, and I had serious migraines for over a month,” Cowan said. “I had to stop drinking caffeine altogether. It really flared up my anxiety, and it was so painful.”

The Palo Alto Medical Foundation says that coffee isn’t considered an addictive drug because those who drink it don’t compulsively seek it like users who are addicted to cocaine or alcohol do. Still, it can cause a heightened tolerance amount for people who drink it often, and they have to constantly increase their intakes to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Doll says that one cup can cause shakiness and irritability, but since she’s become accustomed to the side effects, she’d much rather be shaky and uneasy than suffer withdrawal effects.

“I definitely do get shaky and can’t sit still if I’ve had more than my usual one cup of coffee in the morning,” she said. “I prefer being shaky over the headaches I get from lack of coffee, which do not feel great at all.”

For some students, although they say they rely on coffee to be productive, they’ve become so habituated to the caffeine levels that it’s not really doing much anymore.

Freshman political science major Maggie Swett has been drinking coffee since she was 13 in order to wake herself up. She tried to quit but found herself experiencing painful headaches, and is back to drinking it again.

“I think I drink coffee more out of habit and comfort than anything else,” she said. “I don’t think it actually wakes me up or works as well for me as it used to. Sometimes it even makes me feel more tired.”

Doyle says that although she drinks at least two to four cups of coffee a day, she’s not sure that it’s helping her in the ways that it did before. When she was a sophomore in high school, she’d drink one cup a day, which she says fully woke her up.

“Now, one cup will definitely not do it for me,” Doyle said. “I need a huge amount to stay awake, and even then I think I know that it doesn’t really wake me up. I just do it because I need to have that idea that it’ll wake me up and make me focus.”

Many college students use coffee as an assistant to success while focusing on studying, but Frisch says that the high caffeine intakes most likely won’t be helpful in the long run for retaining the exam concepts.

“The elevated arousal that caffeine brings is probably not conducive to focus,” he said. “With coffee, you’d stay up longer, but it’s not good for the actual learning aspect of it. Unless you’re cramming last minute, I don’t think that caffeine boost will help you long term.”

Beyond the physical effects that coffee brings, students say that there are social reasons that contribute to why they drink it. Coffee shops are natural places for students to study, get free wifi, and catch up with friends. Doyle says that if she and her friends are hanging out, they’ll usually meet up for coffee to plan their activities for the rest of the day.

“There’s a huge social aspect of drinking coffee, and it’s a good thing to bond over,” she said. “When my friends and I link up, the first thing we do is get coffee. It’s also cool to explore new coffee shops.”

Coffee shops provide an experience that’s more than just an added caffeine intake.

“I have so many positive memories involving coffee, like meeting friends at coffee shops and catching up, or walking around school on a cold morning with the coffee warming me up,” said Doll. “It has become something very social as well, and when there is a trendy drink, students tell their friends and they want to try it.”

Starbucks, which has a vast menu for all types of coffee drinkers, has a variety of Frappuccino drinks that are classified more as milkshakes than coffee, but some of the drinks still contain caffeine and encourage young drinkers to become acclimated to it.

In 2017, Starbucks took over social media with a new drink called the Unicorn Frappuccino, which was filled with artificial purple and pink colors and 59 grams of sugar in a grande, or medium, size.

Although the Unicorn Frappuccino has zero milligrams of caffeine, the drink itself can cause younger generations to become used to the products Starbucks offers and allows them to try caffeinated drinks at a younger age. Doll says that these drinks were what started her coffee inclination.

“I think that more people are starting to drink coffee because of the new sugary drinks that popular coffee chains are putting out,” said Doll. “I know for me, I started drinking coffee when I was 13, and got really sweet drinks and decaf coffee. That progressed over time into me drinking black coffee and enjoying the taste of it.”

While sugary drinks and other caffeinated beverages have negative bodily side effects, the drinks also take a toll on student’s wallets.

“The biggest negative effect of drinking too much coffee is how much money I spend on it,” said Lundin.

Frisch believes that coffee is overpriced, especially at large chain shops. “I don’t think the market price for a ton of coffee has ever been cheaper,” said Frisch. “And yet, when I go to Starbucks, the coffee is always getting more and more expensive. That’s very interesting to me.”

With the amount of coffee she drinks daily, Doyle says that she spends around $10 a day on it, and that if she quit drinking it, she’d feel much better about how she uses her money. However, she doesn’t see herself stopping anytime soon.

“I one hundred percent wish that I could quit drinking coffee,” said Doyle. “I’m just too used to it and it’s a part of my lifestyle now. I really would quit if I could.”

Trend Story: Caffeine Addiction in College Students  

This is a trend story I wrote for my journalism class that focuses on caffeine addiction in college students at Chapman University. The assi...

Trend Story: Caffeine Addiction in College Students  

This is a trend story I wrote for my journalism class that focuses on caffeine addiction in college students at Chapman University. The assi...