Students struggling with caffeine dependency


Auden Hattendorf

Brynn Brancamp enjoying her daily dose of coffee, sweetened with three packs of sugar

Auden Hattendorf, Staff Writer

March is caffeine awareness month, but most people are already “aware” of caffeine. What they might not be aware of is the dependency that can result from the daily intake. Coffee is a crucial part of everyday life for most young adults and is the fuel that helps keep your body moving as well as spike your adrenals. This java bean concoction manages to pump you with a rush of energy when you drink as much as a cup. And for some, a cup is all that they require to get moving in the morning. But for others, their fix is more than the recommended dose. And once it exceeds that and one becomes reliant on caffeine as part of their morning routine, that’s when the trouble can begin.

“I have a Starbucks Venti cup,” said Hailey Mahoney, a first-year student at Elgin Community College. “I drink at least three cups [of that] a day.”

When she was asked what might happen if she were to not have that amount of coffee daily, she shuddered.

“I would feel anxious and I would get a stomach ache,” Mahoney said. “I’d have some withdrawal for sure.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it’s reported that users who drink caffeine on a regular basis can experience withdrawal symptoms similar to someone who abuses drugs and tries to detox. However, according to the research, caffeine is not truly classified as “addictive,” but instead, a reliance on caffeine is labeled as being a “dependency.”

Despite not being scientifically classified under “addictive,” caffeine dependency can certainly cause harm and problems for those who define themselves as dependent. Caffeine can also negatively collide with certain medications that adults are taking; especially if the medication is considered to be a stimulant rather than a depressant.

“If I didn’t have caffeine at all, I would get major headaches and would get really shaky,” said Dev DiGrazia, a second-year student at ECC. “I just couldn’t focus. I have ADHD, and I started on adderall, but when I had caffeine on top of that, I was overstimulated.”

Some people use caffeine as a positive stimulant because of certain disabilities or the effects they experience after drinking a warm cup of tea or coffee. But the positives and the negatives of a dependency on the drink can be a tug-of-war.

“I used to drink tea on a daily basis, and then I realized because of my chronic pain, caffeine would actually help,” said Puck Rose, a student at ECC. “So I switched to coffee. I drank three cups a day until I decided my intestines were more important. So, I stopped caffeine cold turkey, and I was [experiencing] withdrawals for, like, three weeks.”

For those who decide that the withdrawal symptoms aren’t worth wrestling with when they miss their daily stimulant, there are things that can help ease the transition out of caffeine dependency. The first way is to quit cold turkey — throw all of the caffeine away. This is the most difficult method, but it gets it out of sight. The second method is to substitute the caffeinated drink for something else that’s enjoyable. The third and most effective method is to wean off slowly and gradually.

The first day, have a normal amount of caffeine. The second day, decrease the amount of caffeine to 75% and substitute the 25% to decaf. On the third day, try half-and-half. And on the fourth day, the entire drink is switched out for decaf. This switch isn’t easy, but the benefits of being free from caffeine outweigh the comfort of the dependency.