Natalie Yeh ’17 drinks one or two double-shot espressos from Paresky Commons in a day, usually visiting the espresso bar at the café in Lower Left. Although she started out drinking only a few cups a week, Yeh is now completely dependent on coffee, she explained to The Phillipian.
“[If I ever quit drinking coffee,] I would have withdrawal symptoms and probably start shaking. I would probably be really tired… I have friends who, when they drink too much coffee, their hands start shaking,” said Yeh.
Too much exposure to the addictive drug can lead to longterm negative effects on students’ health. Students’ over-consumption of coffee and other caffeinated products is of great concern to Dr. Amy Patel, Medical Director and Co-Director of Wellness Education.
“The biggest thing that I think is important to remember is moderation. There are potential harmful effects to having too much, but [in] moderation a cup of coffee a day every few days [is] not a huge deal, and we are unlikely to see untoward effects. Where I worry is what I talked about before those mega doses of caffeine that just aren’t good for anybody, let alone for teenagers,” said Patel.
Yeh, who first tried drinking coffee at age eight, admits that after coming to Andover, she began drinking caffeinated beverages religiously.
“My dad was drinking coffee every morning and it smelled too good, so I had to take a sip. It tasted disgusting, and I hated it the first time… When I came to Andover, it was definitely just lack of sleep and I just needed it to wake me up in the morning and then it became a habit,” said Yeh.
Sophia Gilmour ’19 drinks five cups of coffee a day by her own estimate, a practice she began for social reasons when she was nine years old. At Andover, she frequents the espresso bar in the lower left dining hall.
“[I started drinking] because my parents thought it was polite. That’s what you did in polite company: you had to drink either tea or coffee. I chose coffee,” said Gilmour.
Margot Hutchins ’20 began drinking coffee this past summer to wake herself up in the mornings for early regattas. She admits to drinking more coffee while she is on campus to keep herself awake in the morning.
“I did a lot of regattas this summer, so we would have to leave at six, so I would have to get there at five thirty roughly, and it would just be very difficult so we’d have to use some coffee to get me through… It wakes me up,” said Hutchins.
Ruide Wang ’18, on the other hand, does not drink coffee on a regular basis, but usually uses the beverage to help him stay up late for work.
“For me I drink one or two cups per night and I do that twice a week. I don’t drink in the morning. I usually use coffee for night shifts and stuff… Before coming here I used to drink a lot and then I realized first of all coffee really messed up my schedule and although it makes me psyched during the night, during the day I felt really tired so I’m trying to limit it,” said Wang.
While Patel does not want to try to limit students’ caffeine intake, she does think that moderation and the time of day you drink your coffee are important to how the drug affects teenage bodies. Patel also acknowledges that coffee consumption can be a social habit.
“I think that there’s a social component to having a cup of coffee or going downtown. I think there are some who will drink it to try to stay awake… I think that we should not necessarily limit the amount provided but it’s very reasonable to limit the time of day. That goes for the students as well as the adults in our community in terms of preserving our sleep cycles. To make sure that we are limiting it to breakfast and lunch and not necessarily requiring it at dinner,” said Patel.
Patel’s main worry is students’ caffeine intake affecting their heart, especially when coffee is combined with other energy drinks or powders. Caffeine in the form of a serving of coffee or tea is is not an issue on it’s own, but student experimentation and combinations can be deadly.
“What we do know is that in the last several years with the onset of those energy drinks like Monster and Red Bull… that the incident of emergency room visits has gone up generally, not necessarily for Andover students, but generally for people who are actually feeling palpitations or feeling like their hearts pumping too fast or too hard and for those who don’t know that they have a pre-existing heart condition,” said Patel.
Although it may be difficult to achieve, Patel urges students to get more sleep so they will not need to rely on the effects of caffeine to get them through the day. She hopes that the new 4×5 schedule will make this goal more achievable.
“You just need to sleep more. I know that that is something that we all try to do and I don’t mean to trivialize the issue and sleep deprivation at all because I think that’s a serious issue. And it’s one that were taking up as adults in this community as well as we’re getting used to a new schedule and a new calendar and how to preserve normal sleep time,” said Patel.
“Starting classes later, that’s actually on the table in terms of conversation for a new schedule and calendar and adhering to American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines and others who support starting classes at eight thirty or later and trying to think about reducing the number of class prep that are required the next day and actually limiting it to no more than three per day those are all on the schedule as we consider a new schedule and calendar,” she continued.