Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Caffeine: friend or foe?

Cyd Rios

As first-years enter college, they face significant pressure to find success and maintain their old lifestyle. UT students have extensive extracurriculars, filled resumes and busy social lives — often all at once. Since college is a drastic change from high school and can throw people off of their normal routine, students may turn to caffeine as an outlet. 

Students’ college transition is often guided by First-Year Interest Groups (FIGs) that show them how to navigate expectations and needs and utilize on-campus resources. Since students can become dependent on caffeine as they adjust to college, FIGs should stress the impacts of caffeine and how to responsibly intake the drug. 

“I just noticed that I kind of crash whenever I drink caffeine,” psychology freshman Sarah Roecker said. “I have noticed especially with energy drinks, not so much with coffee, but with energy drinks. I’ll crash every now and then after drinking it, like an hour later, that it kind of wears off and then I’m feeling just like I did right before.”

Caffeine can negatively impact students’ sleep schedules. The Sleep Foundation explains that caffeine blocks certain chemicals and should be avoided at least eight hours before sleep. Yet many students do not adhere to this advice. The American Psychological Association also details that caffeine can be addictive and could induce “jitters, irritability and gastric distress”.   

Admittedly, caffeine does have some benefits. As the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health points out, lower caffeine doses can increase alertness, energy and concentration.  

Still, the benefits of caffeine do not outweigh its long-term negative effects. Caffeine may be a useful tool in some instances, but college students are prone to abuse its consumption well beyond moderation.  

“I think it definitely is an issue … and I definitely do think FIGs should go over it because if they put it in the person’s face, they actually learn from it,” Roecker said. “We don’t really seek out that information … because if they feel more energized … and they think that the caffeine is working, then I feel like they’re more likely to just go about their day and not learn the negative effects of it. … A FIG … will make them more likely to understand what they’re putting in their body.”

The energy caffeine provides can cause students to overlook its impact on their bodies, causing them to blame stress or other aspects of daily life. 

“Yeah, I think it would definitely be worth talking about because even I didn’t really realize how impactful caffeine was on me,” said Melinda Wang, an MIS and economics sophomore and FIG mentor. “Because before, I’d be drinking it, but this year I kind of had a bad reaction to it. So now I kind of get the importance of talking about it and the awareness of it. I think it definitely should be something that’s as emphasized as something like alcohol awareness as well. I think FIG mentors should take that into account.”

Since FIG mentors have discretion in what they teach, they should take advantage of this leeway to spread awareness on caffeine-related topics. Caffeine is fundamentally a part of college campuses, and FIG mentors have the opportunity to teach students about responsible caffeine consumption. 

Knowing the side effects of caffeine and understanding that moderate consumption can help eliminate them is vital to students’ health. Considering these factors, FIG mentors should utilize their courses to encourage mindfulness around caffeine usage. 

Rail is an English sophomore from El Paso, Texas.

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