Caffeine dependence: a buzz-worthy topic
Even though sipping a cup of coffee at the start of each day may be part of a typical morning routine, it may actually indicate a larger problem.
Though it is a naturally occurring stimulant, general practitioner Dr. Jean-Pierre Leung said that caffeine has addictive and habit-forming qualities that can lead frequent users to dependence.
Dr. Jim Bewes, a general practitioner, recommended that caffeine fans limit their intake of the pep-inducing compound to 250 mg per day – the equivalent of about two 16-ounce cups of brewed coffee, or five 12-ounce cans of Pepsi. If your caffeine intake begins to exceed this amount on a regular basis, symptoms of caffeine dependence can arise.
Caffeine dependence, Bewes said, occurs when caffeine is used excessively as a means of staying awake. On a biological level, the caffeine dependent will experience mild withdrawal symptoms ranging from headaches to irritability – and, in some cases, nausea.
A more severe set of problems may also arise in caffeine fanatics whose daily levels of ingested caffeine top the 500 mg mark, with a frightening slew of symptoms including anxiety, agitation, insomnia and a racing heartbeat.
First-year architectural technologies student Julia Brad is a self-professed caffeine addict who regularly indulges in coffee, soda and energy drinks to stay alert and awake for her early morning class schedule.
In addition to her morning cup of Joe, Brad said that she usually turns to either Pepsi or Monster energy drinks—a caffeine count ranging from 38 – 160 mg, respectively—when working on assignments or reviewing class notes.
“Sometimes coffee isn’t doing enough for me, and I need something that kicks in quickly to keep me going,” she said. “I am definitely addicted to caffeine – but it’s not a physical addiction, it’s more psychological because I only think that I need caffeine. I could probably go without it if I wanted to.”
According to Leung, “People can absolutely develop a habit and become addicted to caffeine because it’s like a drug and you can end up taking a higher and higher dosage to achieve that initial awakening effect.”
For first-year architectural technologies student Madison Martin, coffee-sourced caffeine is a thing of the past. While her morning ritual does involve one cup of natural black tea, she said that it is more to warm her up than to keep her awake. For the arduous task of staying awake during early classes, the self-described “hippy dippy” student recommended students substitute caffeine usage with natural stimulants such as cayenne pepper or horseradish.
The best thing to do in the case of a suspected caffeine dependence or addiction, Leung said, is to become aware of the amounts of caffeinated beverages you’re consuming. He also advised that keeping your buzz-seeking habit in check may be helpful in monitoring and preventing the development of any jittery symptoms.
“Caffeine isn’t a highly dangerous substance. But even though it’s naturally derived, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safer. Eventually, people can overdo it, so be aware of what you’re putting into your body.”