While walking around campus, I have noticed that students at ENC depend on caffeine drinks to get through the week. Caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant, is effective because of how long its energy lasts in our bodies. Some effects, according to a study done at Brown University, can last anywhere between four to six hours. It seems that if it helps students open their eyes in the morning and stay awake in class, then it is completely necessary for college survival.

College is a time of heavy work-loads and various responsibilities, ranging from maintaining different relationships to completing group projects or assignments. If, on top of all of your schoolwork, you have a part-time job, you are under more pressure to balance your time. It’s no mystery that many of us overuse caffeine to stay alert all the time, most commonly in the form of coffee or energy drinks. I think that one of the problems we face–as a caffeine culture–is substituting coffee or energy drinks for sleep and sometimes meals.

While we may think of caffeine as a helpful and harmless substance, like other substances it can yield some negative effects, such as irregular heart rate, mental incoherence, and even anxiety. Some of us have felt shaking in our hands after drinking too much coffee.  But like countless students across the country, we wait for it to pass and carry on.

If you find yourself exceeding two cups of coffee per day, you may be putting your health at risk. Harvard’s Public Health school published an article called “Coffee Risks” detailing some of the pros and cons of drinking coffee, both moderately and excessively. In a nutshell, they found that 1-2 cups per day is safe. However, it also stated that once you exceed 2 cups per day, you may be in danger of overuse and of developing caffeine dependency.  Caffeine at high doses can cause headaches and insomnia, and may temporarily speed up your heart rate. According to another study conducted by Brown University, the amount of caffeine in an energy drink can range from 75 milligrams to over 200 milligrams per serving. This compares to 34 milligrams in Coke and 55 milligrams in Mountain Dew.

The implications are very clear. As the semester inches forward, regular caffeine-consumers need to regulate how many cups or cans we consume.  We also need to consider healthy alternatives to caffeine.

Fitness Magazine recently published an article stating that an apple may provide just as much energy as a single cup of coffee, while other fruits and vegetables can give our bodies a small energy boost.

I think the most important thing is moderation. Our bodies go through a lot, sometimes more than what we can handle mentally, and we need to make sure that we take care of ourselves throughout the day. I don’t think that anyone must quit drinking coffee or consuming caffeine completely, but when your body reaches its maximum intake, we must be  responsible to not push our body beyond healthy limits.