by Camryn Myrla, staff writer

Caffeine can be found in many products besides energy drinks or coffee, such as tea and soda. Vending machines in and around the school usually contain most of these drinks and attract the attention of dozens of students every day. Photo by Camryn Myrla, staff writer.

FEBRUARY 2022 — Students of Bio-Med Science Academy can often be found drinking coffee or energy drinks for the caffeine found inside them. This mildly addictive stimulant, though known for helping people stay alert, can have potentially harmful side effects.

There are many benefits of caffeine besides preventing drowsiness. As claimed by the American Heart Association News, perks include improved mood, faster metabolism, and a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

However, according to Brown University, possible side effects of caffeine are restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, dehydration, and more.

Some students and teachers alike avoid caffeine products due to these effects. For instance, Ms. Jenna Bates, eleventh-grade language arts teacher, has a severe sensitivity to caffeine.

“When I have even accidentally consumed even a little bit of caffeine, my heart races, and I can get very sick.”

Junior Keira Vasbinder is allergic to caffeine, and experiences similar symptoms. However, she believed that she benefits from avoiding the stimulant. “I feel good about the fact that I don’t need to rely on caffeine in order to make it through the day.”

Other students, though, consume caffeine for its benefits. Grace Epling, another Junior, is aware of the harmful side effects of caffeine, but she estimates that she still consumes approximately 300 milligrams per day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents aged 12 to 18 should limit their daily caffeine intake to 100 milligrams.

As a result, Epling occasionally experiences anxiety and heartaches. “I know that caffeine’s not great for you,” she said, “but I don’t want to fail in school just because I’m tired. If I know that my body can handle [caffeine], and that it’ll help me be better at school, I’m going to drink it.”

Though she drinks coffee and soda, Epling currently avoids energy drinks due to the high levels of caffeine when compared to other products.

Ms. Shana Varner, who teaches eleventh grade Health and Anatomy and Physiology, also opposes energy drinks. “I feel that energy drinks are too much at one time, and [students] are often drinking multiple throughout the day.”

Additionally, Varner recognized that caffeine can be beneficial if students use it as a “pre-workout.” Yet, she also noted that,  “A lot of the students who are drinking [energy drinks] don’t have much energy expenditure —they’re sitting down all day. This isn’t good for their nervous system.”

Ninth-grade history teacher Mr. William Ullinger agreed that such high levels of caffeine could be detrimental to a student. “I do think it’s crazy how much caffeine our kids drink. It can really hurt their mental health.”

Energy drinks can contain more than 400 milligrams of caffeine, which is the suggested limit for adults. Despite this, many students rely on the product to stay alert during the school day, such as Destiny Wheeler, a seventh-grade student.

Wheeler drinks coffee and energy drinks nearly every day, and often experiences headaches and stomachaches.

“If there’s one thing I could say, it’s ‘don’t drink [energy drinks],’” Wheeler commented.

Students are not the only people at Bio-Med who use caffeine for its perks. Teachers, too, benefit from the stimulant.

Varner consumes caffeine through coffee, soda, or iced tea throughout the day. “It’s hard for me to tell kids to stop drinking that much caffeine, because it’s a double standard.”

In addition to its short-term side effects, caffeine can cause symptoms of withdrawal if someone stops consuming it after consistently using the stimulant. All interviewees noted that they experienced headaches after not consuming caffeine in a day.

Meanwhile, long-term effects of consuming more than the recommended amount of caffeine use may include muscle tremors or an irregular heart rate.

“Caffeine is the most commonly used drug in the world,” an analysis on caffeine withdrawal reported, which “makes it a major public health concern.”

The analysis also provided advice on avoiding the symptoms of withdrawal: “Individuals who are determined to rid themselves of caffeine dependence should be advised to decrease caffeine consumption gradually to prevent the caffeine-withdrawal syndrome.”

“Overall, it’s a personal decision to drink [caffeine],” said Epling, when commenting on the negative side effects of caffeine. “You should be responsible, and weigh the good and the bad.”

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