Caffeine should be used with caution

Make like an iced coffee and chill the caffeine (intake)

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An illustration of a student holding a cup of coffee. They are wearing large glasses, and the image is layered with some transparency, giving the illusion of being overcaffeinated.
This is your sign to quit. ILLUSTRATION: Nazmus Sakib / The Peak

By: Maya Beninteso, Peak Associate

So . . . you consume too much caffeine. Though not entirely a surprise — caffeine is addictive by nature and central to the student lifestyle — I am nonetheless about to roast your habit. You have bean warned.

Caffeine is found in some of your favourite beverages: coffee, tea, energy drinks, and pop, which are designed and marketed (boo capitalism) to keep you coming back for more. Someone’s profiting off your caffeine dependence and — spoiler alert — it’s not you.

There is an irrefutable culture that exists amongst students and the overall workforce that promotes and reinforces the consumption of caffeine. I believe this student culture of consuming caffeine is, in part, due to academia’s grind culture. The need to keep up with constant, high-pressure academic rigor has resulted in the normalization of stimulant use. I, too, admit to having fallen victim to consuming copious amounts of caffeine — it’s necessary to sustain the vigorous studying sessions demanded by grind culture. I’ve even come to be on a first name basis with the baristas at my local Starbucks. Though the coffeeshop rapport is nice, the caffeine addiction is a problem.

Caffeine reliance has been normalized to the point where it’s easy to forget that caffeine is a psychoactive substance — it’s literally a drug, and is the world’s most widely consumed one at that. Like with any other substance, this means that you can develop a dependence (both physiological and psychological) to caffeine if consumed regularly — even in small amounts.

Psychological dependence can be found in the subtle shift in language from “I could go for a coffee right now” to “I need coffee this fucking instant.” If the risk of dependent cravings aren’t reason enough to motivate you to distance yourself from caffeine, consider the symptoms of physiological dependence: headaches, fatigue, tremors, and more. Sounds pleasant, right? These symptoms are most prevalent and severe when an individual goes into caffeine withdrawal, which usually occurs 12–24 hours after last consuming caffeine. It’s better to withdraw yourself from your caffeine consumption before the caffeine starts to consume you.

The two known strategies to reduce caffeine consumption are in weaning or in a hard cutoff. Weaning entails slowly reducing caffeine intake — try drinking tea instead of coffee, or adding more space between your coffee breaks. The hard cutoff method is recognized to be a tough switch, but if you choose this method, I encourage you to try it over the weekend lest it ruin your work week. If you’re already rebelling against the culture of hyperproductivity though — might as well go full send and ride out your withdrawal symptoms during work hours.

Is this article going to be single-handedly responsible for you going cold-turkey on caffeinated beverages? Likely not. Beyond the impacts associated with the 10 trillion kilograms of coffee we produce yearly, coffee dates, tea time, and caffeinated beverages remain a staple for many of us. But I do hope this stimulating article will persuade you to, at least, chill out on the caffeine consumption — for both your own sake and that of the environment.