Some unaware of caffeine’s dangers

A professor cited excessive use and dependence on caffeine as dangers.

Many University students report regularly using caffeine as a means to find the energy they need to perform at work and school.

But while some recognize the potential side effects of using excessive quantities of pop, coffee or caffeine pills, others are unaware of the dangers of becoming dependent on the substance.

Junior Petra Duecker said caffeine helps her get through the hectic school day.

“I feel that caffeine helps me think faster, (gives me) more motivation, less drowsiness, and there is also a comfort factor,” she said.

However, several students who were asked about the negative side effects of caffeine said they did not realize there were any.

“I don’t think it has any negative effects on me,” said first-year student Cierra Sather. “I drink lots of coffee – it’s pretty much all I drink. I’ve been drinking it for so long that I have a high tolerance.”

University professor cites caffeine’s side effects

Public health professor Jim Rothenberger, who has taught alcohol and drug classes for 32 years, said that the effects of caffeine, though different for every user, can be quite profound.

“A large amount will do the extreme,” Rothenberger said. “You can become very jittery and even paranoid.”

Rothenberger said people can also become dependent on caffeine “somewhat quickly.”

“If you went from drinking eight cups a day to none, you would even experience withdrawal (which) can range from headaches, being jittery and even nausea. Headaches are normally the first sign though,” Rothenberger said.

“Bottom line: It’s a drug.”

Sophomore Nina Sivula said she has already experienced signs of dependence.

“I generally drink it to stop caffeine headaches or because I’m tired,” Sivula said. “Which definitely means I’m addicted to it, which isn’t good.”

First-year student Katy Thiesen said she uses coffee to help her study.

“I probably drink two to three cups of coffee a day,” she said. “It keeps me awake, helps me concentrate and study better.”

Moderation is the key

But Rothenberger said caffeine can actually harm memory.

“With a large amount (of caffeine), you will not be able to remember as much as if you were well-rested and learning that material,” he said.

Rothenberger said there are alternatives to using caffeine.

“Good sleep, good diet, exercise – basically what your mother’s been telling you.”

Rothenberger also stressed that not everyone’s reaction to caffeine will be the same.

“Some people are more tolerant than others and become used to the effects. For some, it does not produce as much stimulation,” he said.

Moderation, Rothenberger said, is the key.

“A couple of cups a week isn’t going to hurt,” he said.

Freelance editor Steven Snyder welcomes comments at [email protected]