By Samantha Rosen
The most common mood-altering drug in the world has people across the world addicted.
This drug — caffeine — is found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks and some over-the-counter medications. While it promotes alertness, increases reaction time and endurance, relieves pain and gives an energy boost, excessive caffeine can lead to headaches on withdrawal, infertility, birth defects, insomnia and irritability.
At least 68 million Americans drink three cups of coffee every day, and it is believed that three out of four regular caffeine users are actually addicted to the substance, according to Health Research Funding.
“I drink coffee to survive,” said Rachael Weinberger, a sophomore enrolled in letters and sciences.
“I get bad headaches if I don’t drink it and have to nap in the middle of the day.”
Caffeine affects the central nervous system in significant ways. Consuming as little as 200 mg per day can lead to addiction and altered chemistry in the brain, according to Health Research Funding. Caffeine blocks the receptors in the brain that tell the body when it is time to rest and sleep, making it incredibly addictive.
Coffee addiction remains extremely prevalent on college campuses, where students survive on very little sleep and need to be alert for class and studying. There are over 10 cafes on the University of Maryland’s campus where students can buy coffee to keep them sustained all day.
“I drink three cups of coffee a day, and I need it as soon as I wake up in the morning to be productive,” said Noa Klein, a sophomore international business major. “I started drinking it last year when I started college because I was getting less sleep and always had to be awake and alert to do all my homework.”
A 2008 University of Kentucky study showed that more than 78 percent of college freshman consume at least 200 mg of caffeine per day. However, Dining Services spokesman Bart Hipple does not perceive students’ coffee intake as an addiction.
“I’m a big coffee drinker myself, and I don’t see a huge amount of caffeine addiction on campus,” Hipple said. “If it is there it’s not obvious. The dining halls sell a surprisingly small amount of coffee, and I believe a lot of the other coffee sold on campus is specialty coffee drinks.”
If addicted to caffeine, there are ways to quit. Substituting daily coffees with cups of green tea will decrease caffeine intake. Additionally, research shows that a 20-minute power nap is more helpful than a cup of coffee. The fastest way to detox, however, is cutting cold turkey.