Caffeine Craze

Caffeine is my god. How many times has this phrase been uttered on the PA campus? From any time between bleary-eyed breakfast when we clutch steaming cups of coffee to the midst of an arduous all-nighter, as we chug our third can of Red Bull, caffeine surrounds us. There is little doubt that this drug is the powerhouse of Andover and the rest of the nation. 90% of Americans consume caffeine, in one form or other, on a daily basis. This is hardly surprising. Take a ride down any street, and you are bound to find at least three Dunkin Donuts and five Starbucks. Caffeine is addictive, and it stimulates that same part of the brain as cocaine, heroin, and other chemical stimulants. But unlike more potent and dangerous drugs, caffeine is rumored to have additional health benefits. According to a recent study by Kaiser Permanente, fewer people who consume caffeine commit suicide than those who do not. Additionally, a study conducted at Harvard supports the idea that caffeine decreases the likelihood of contracting Parkinson’s disease. While caffeine does affect metabolism by increasing the circulation of fatty acids, it is not the appetite suppressant and ‘metabolism jump-starter’ that many consider it. It is much more effective for those who do not use it habitually. Also, when used with a painkiller, caffeine can aid in the treatment of migraine and headache symptoms. As much as we would like to deny it, caffeine does have its dirty little secrets. First, breaking the addiction is painful and includes unpleasant physical side effects, like headaches and extreme exhaustion. Additionally, caffeine addicts need much more caffeine to experience the same effects as someone who is not addicted. Although caffeine increases our level of productivity and allows us to work more quickly, the burst of energy it provides us with can lead to sloppy work. It is not a good idea to chug a Mountain Dew before a math test. Also, students who are pumped full of caffeine during an all-nighter should get ready for the huge crash in the middle of first period. Caffeine is the most popular drug in the world. This is not solely because its side effects or addictive qualities. Perhaps the biggest reason that caffeine is so commonplace is because it is implanted so deeply into our society. Coffee has infiltrated every aspect of culture, from movies, to literature, to shopping, and media. This leads to the question: Do we really need to be addicted to caffeine or is it a cultural casualty? Is it possible to survive PA without turning to the bottle of coke or the cup of Joe? Caffeine consumption has taken on a social glamour. The most popular hang-out spots are the coffee shops downtown. Just step into Starbucks and you are bound to find half your grade. Even students who are not caffeine junkies stop inside to talk and end up buying a coffee or tea. Also, the wide availability of caffeine on campus has caused addiction. Sitting around a Commons table at breakfast with coffee, watching TV in Ryley with a coke, or eating chocolate in the dorm after dinner are normal Andover rituals. We are consistently bombarded with this drug in the social scene, and we end up convincing ourselves that we need it to finish our English paper. Up until a few years ago, teenagers lived similar life styles to ourselves without the permeating influence of caffeine. However, it has become so lodged into every social activity that all Andover students will have consumed remarkable amounts of caffeine by the time they are seniors, and most of these students will become convinced that their ability to function depends on Red Bull.