October 9, 2015

PUTTING IT INTO FOCUS | Coffee, Chocolate and Lattes, Oh My!

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As I step into the brisk morning air that constitutes fall weather, I am acquainted with the rush of students hurrying to their classes, phone and coffee in hand. With a cup in my own hands, I realized just how compelled people are to drink caffeinated beverages every morning. Coffee has become both the saving grace and the bane of our existence — a beverage that gives us energy to stay awake, yet one that falsely stimulates alertness and productivity.

Caffeine was deemed chemically addictive in 1994 by researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. It strongly resembles the chemical structure of adenosine and can bind to adenosine receptors. This competitive inhibition of adenosine receptors reduces the feelings of tiredness and creates an impression of alertness for as many as six hours. According to researchers just over 20 years ago, subjects that were physically dependent on coffee indicated withdrawal symptoms such as headache, nausea and even lethargy and depression. Scientists then have speculated that the number of highly coffee addictive individuals is small. However, small daily doses of coffee can still make an individual physically dependent.

With the first wave of prelims behind us, we have become accustomed to the reality of long stressful nights and large piles of work that never seem to end. Our productivity in getting our work done is sharply minimized on factors both within and outside of our control. Often, the most important factor that is in our control and likely the result of technology around us is procrastination. With the advent of coffee, procrastination has become more and more common. Our Keurig machines signal to us that with a touch of a button, we can gain more energy and therefore more time to be productive during later times of the day. As a result, coffee intake becomes more and more common, and the student population as a result becomes more and more dependent on its presence.

In fact, coffee can be seen not only as a want, but a necessity. Researchers from the John Hopkins School of Medicine have found that regular coffee drinkers do not increase their level of productivity when they drink coffee, only relieve their symptoms of withdrawal. In essence, drinking coffee will not boost productivity, but bring one’s productivity back to normal. According to the researchers, the impression of efficiency only lasts for a short period of time. As a result, coffee consumption continues, a vicious cycle of caffeine intake arises and so called caffeine addicts are born.

As much as we like to consider coffee addiction a benign and almost comical matter, its harm to productivity is profound and immense. Drinking coffee regularly with a false perception of its benefits can result in an unstoppable cycle, not only continuing inefficiency but making everyday actions dependent on coffee as well.

There is still hope for those who wish to get back on their normal, less caffeinated, productive schedule. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms, contrary to other drugs and alcohol, only last between seven to 12 days. Therefore, those willing to suffer through headaches and work through fatigue will be able to get back to their usual habits within a week and a half of discontinuing or shortening caffeine intake.

Caffeine withdrawal does not only refer to coffee but to tea, sodas and chocolate. As a result, some sweet loving individuals may have more of an addiction to coffee, and therefore a decreased productivity, than those who solely drink coffee.

As prelim season draws to a close, it may be beneficial to cut back on our caffeine intake. The false perception of efficiency may seem beneficial at first, yet if we wish to make our sleep patterns (and sanity) more regular, we must adjust our daily caffeine consumption.

So Cornellian caffeine lovers, let’s get together and fight our caffeine addiction — even though we’ll cheat with a Caramel Frappuccino every once in a while.

Ashley Radparvar is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. She is a music enthusiast, a self-proclaimed winter weather aficionado and SNL devotee. In her spare time, she can be found on the Slope, enjoying the wonderful views Ithaca has to offer. Putting it into Focus appears on alternate Fridays this semester. She can be reached at [email protected].