The hyper-productivity culture of college normalizes caffeine addiction

In the city that never sleeps, students will do anything to stay awake.

Every morning, hundreds of NYU students stop by Pret A Manger, Starbucks, or any of the city’s countless coffee chains to purchase their constant companion and loyal friend: a comforting cup of coffee. I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t imagine my existence without it, but it’s easy to forget that just because every person you see walking by you on the street is on their fourth cup of joe, the drink could be doing more harm , than benefits.

Few things bring students together like coffee, apart from mutual stress and the fear of failing classes. The reality of coffee’s addictive side effects is often pushed aside in favor of a culture of hustle. Once entrenched in coffee shop rendezvous, students may forget that caffeine can have long-lasting and damaging effects on the brain and, in large doses, can cause anxiety, nausea, palpitations and difficulty concentrating.

Caffeine use disorder is a pattern that consists of a person’s unsuccessful attempts to reduce or control caffeine use, despite knowing that it worsens physical or psychological problems. The disorder is also accompanied by withdrawal symptoms. Now the World Health Organization recognizes caffeine addiction as a clinical disease.

Too busy with exams and social commitments, many students don’t know—and don’t care—whether what they consume is good for their health. Sophomore Sho Ishizaki says he wouldn’t be the same without a morning Americano with three shots of espresso and the occasional two or three extra shots of coffee after lunch.

“I’d rather be five minutes late to class than not drink coffee at all,” Ishizaki said. “I’m not really concerned about the negative health risks. I literally drink coffee instead of water.’

Thanks to Pret A Manger’s coffee subscription, which allows users to drink up to five drinks a day for just $25 a month, Ishizaki is a religious coffee drinker — he always walks around New York City with a cup in hand. He explained that the easy access to coffee in the city fueled his transformation into a coffee enthusiast.

Cynthia Liu, another sophomore I spoke with, said that her caffeine intake had increased since moving to New York. She usually starts her weekdays with two double shots of espresso and one large cold brew. She never goes a week without it to avoid withdrawal symptoms, which she described as similar to a hangover. Without coffee, Liu’s body feels heavier, and she experiences chronic migraines and fogginess in her head, which she says affects her ability to go about her day.

What students like Ishizaki and Liu may not be aware of is that high and prolonged caffeine consumption can impair students’ ability to think clearly without the drink over time. In a study published in ScienceDirect, Researchers have warned that a busy work schedule can lead to the development of sleep disorders and the inability to regulate emotions without a morning cup of coffee.

For college students, academic pressures—and the romanticization and normalization of coffee addiction—can often obscure the fact that caffeine is a drug. Unhealthy levels of consumption go unnoticed under the guise of preparing for mid-term exams. Students destroy their bodies to succeed and no one bats an eye.

The Opinion section of WSN aims to publish ideas worthy of discussion. The opinions presented in the Opinion section are solely those of the writer.

Contact Manami Yamana at [email protected]

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