Fall asleep or gain an addiction?

Members in the UT community face internal challenges daily in the Starbucks line, struggling to decide on the most caffeinated beverage to accomplish the day's tasks.

One of the largest problems on college campuses lies in a small coffee cup. Caffeine can appear in the shape of energy drinks, gum and coffee, all of which enable students to neglect sleep.

Caffeine is a stimulant derived from plants, seeds, nuts or beans which energizes the user's nervous system and is often used as a study aid.

Emily Williams, freshman in French and linguistics, regularly drinks up to seven cups of coffee a day and often frequents the library.

"I guess I could go without coffee but I don't know what I'd do without it," Williams said. "Especially if I'm pulling an all-nighter that night, I need coffee and espresso to stay awake." Williams views herself as a coffee addict, and she is not alone.

According to a study conducted by the University of Dayton, caffeine is America's most used drug. It alters the mental states of users and has influenced millions of Americans. Caffeine addictions thrive on college campuses with deadlines, exams and the constant struggle for time.

Caffeine addictions aren't only limited to students. This need for caffeine extends to faculty members and includes other drinks as well.

"I have a Diet Coke first thing in the morning," said Dr. Robin Jean Nicks, a senior lecturer in English who consumes several sodas a day. "I'm keeping Diet Coke in business."

Eight ounces worth of coffee may contain anywhere from 95 to 200 mg of caffeine while the same amount of Coca-Cola contains 35 mg of caffeine.

"I prefer it over other caffeinated beverages. I just like the taste better," Dr. Nicks said. "I think that there are a lot of us for whom (caffeine) is an addiction."

Some businesses on campus thrive off of the communal desire for a quick pick-me-up. On campus, two Starbucks, Einstein Bros. Bagels and countless campus stores deliver highly caffeinated products like Red Bull, Monster energy drinks, coffee and energy gum.

Erin Jones, a senior in studio art, works as a Starbucks barista in Hodges Library.

"Everyone drinks a lot of coffee to stay awake, but I wouldn't necessarily call them addicted," Jones said. "I see regulars ... but I don't see people come in an excessive amount."

Students frequent these stores to energize themselves and prepare for a late night study session or wake up to prepare for classes. Although these short-term effects may be positive, caffeine possibly causes problems later in life if used in excess.

In minimal amounts, caffeine has no long-term negative effects. In excess though, caffeine can pose a problem. Long-term side effects include anxiety disorders, high blood pressure and diabetes. From small headaches, yellow teeth to weak bones, several cups of coffee a day over time has the potential to negatively affect the body.

"The yellowing of the teeth isn't really cool that and when you're relying on something like that," said Adam Glenn, a freshman in computer science. "You don't feel good when you don't have (caffeine). I don't really want to be dependent on coffee."

Caffeine has the potential to alter your appetite and in turn threaten your nutrition.

If someone drinks more than 300 mg of coffee in a row, an individual can experience consequences like nervousness, elevated heart rate and a spike in sugar levels.

"I consider anything that can change your perception a drug so it picks you up and it's a stimulant," Glenn said. "I consider it a drug just as much as alcohol or Adderall."

Students' opinions vary as widely as their Starbucks order in terms of their opinions on whether or not the use and abuse of caffeine is a problem on campus.

Shawn Mcilvaine, a freshman majoring in chemistry, claims caffeine picks his mood up but believes the benefits outweigh the risks like most students and faculty.

"Coffee is the fix-all, no matter what your mood is," he said. "Coffee makes it better."