By Jessica McGregor
Pulled an all-nighter lately? It is hard to imagine staying up all night to finish a research paper or study for a final without some sort of energy aid to keep from dozing off in the library.
What most students may not know is that energy drinks and other caffeinated beverages actually have the opposite effect students are looking for when trying to do some last minute cramming.
“Anytime you get too much of a stimulant in your system, it will cause the opposite reaction you are looking for. Instead of feeling more alert it will actually make you feel nervous and jittery which is not going to help your concentration,” Olin Health Center Health Educator Jonathan Kermiet said.
Students may not realize there is caffeine in many things such as coffee, tea, chocolate and other foods or drinks; so if a student is pulling an all-nighter and drinks coffee, then an energy drink and then eats chocolate they will over-stimulate themselves and have a reaction much like an adrenaline rush resulting from stress; which can make it harder to focus on studying, Kermiet said.
After conducting a non-scientific survey of 21 MSU students, nine said they drank one caffeinated beverage per day while two responded claiming they drank more than three caffeinated beverages per day, which could be potentially harmful.
However, more than half of the students agreed they were aware of the negative effects of caffeine on the body and mind.
“People can develop a tolerance and an addiction to caffeine. So the problem then becomes when or if that person wants to cut down or cut off or quit, they will suffer some mild withdrawal–type symptoms; headaches and irritability and some of that which is uncomfortable,” Kermiet said.
“I know that caffeine is in your system for a very long time. The withdrawals give you headaches and coffee addicts may make New Years’ resolutions to quit but have negative side-effects because they were addicted to caffeine,” undecided freshman Alicia Vignoe said.
While many students trek across campus, energy drink in hand, some still make the decision to stay away from caffeine in their day-to-day lives.
“Caffeine, when broken down to its scientific base, is a chemical. I believe that it’s hard for people to distinguish caffeine as being a dangerous substance because it is (included) in tasty, everyday drinks such as coffee, pop, and energy drinks. One can never go wrong with an ice cold glass of water that boosts metabolism and memory, which is the path I tend to stay on,” major sophomore McKayla Beam says.
Some research suggests that coffee or caffeine may be good for you, but it goes along with the saying “anything in moderation, moderation is the key word,” Kermiet said.
It is hard to give a rule of thumb for caffeine consumption because, like alcohol, it depends on the individual.
“The key for most people (or) what you should be aware of, is that if you are finding yourself to be jittery; feeling kind of strung out…I think that is a good sign to at least stop and ask yourself, ‘Okay what is this from? Is this from the all-nighter I just pulled or from the five or six cups of coffee I had because of the all-nighter?’ I think there are red-flags that people should be aware of,” Kermiet said. “A good rule of thumb, two to three servings of a caffeine source (per day) is sufficient or more than sufficient. Anymore than that…you need to be careful.”
Another trend on college campuses are the Four Loko drinks or mixing alcohol with energy drinks to get the desired energy required to stay out all night while becoming intoxicated.
“When alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, a popular practice among youth, the caffeine in these drinks can mask the depressant effects of alcohol,” Robert Brewer, an epidemiologist in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Alcohol Program said in a prepared statement. “At the same time, caffeine has no effect on the metabolism of alcohol by the liver and thus does not reduce breath alcohol concentrations or reduce the risk of alcohol attributable harms.”
According to the CDC’s Alcohol Program, Brewer said, Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages (CABs) are premixed beverages that combine alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants.
Although the Four Loko drinks were banned from being sold by retailers in Michigan November 2010 because they were dangerous and unhealthy, Kermiet said he would be more concerned about students mixing products of the same kind.
“You’re mixing an upper with a downer basically. The caffeine is a stimulant and the alcohol is a depressant. I think what sometimes that will do is exaggerate the effect of whatever your taking the most of,” he says, “But I would probably be more concerned about those students mixing caffeine with another stimulant.”
Although Kermiet considers alcohol and caffeine less harmful than mixing two stimulants, the CDC still warns of the risks when mixing alcohol with caffeine.