If you look up “drug” on Wikipedia, the first image that comes up is a cup of coffee. Known for its power to physically and mentally alter a person, caffeine is considered the most common drug, often making a daily impact on coffee lovers and coffeeholics. Although a fan of coffee myself, I’ve been recognizing more of its questionable (and even dangerous) qualities, and I’m eager to understand how coffee makes its way into our everyday health.

Most people know the upsides and downsides to coffee, like how it wakes you up, but keeps you awake; it makes you productive, but can also make you hyper-anxious. According to Harvard Medical School, coffee can be used to reduce the risk of certain diseases like diabetes or Parkinson’s, yet coffee can cause harm to your body through stomach ulcers and cardiovascular issues. While most of our society knows the risks of consuming coffee –– similar to how we know the risks of other drugs and alcohol — we can’t seem to put down the mug or leave without a refill.

My friend and I were sitting in Espresso Royale doing homework and discussing whether or not I should get a coffee. After an almost immediate “yes, definitely” answer from my daily-coffee-drinking friend, she explained to me an odd (but likely common) theory of her coffee intake. She believes that if she suddenly realizes that she didn’t have a coffee that morning, she will begin to feel tired and irritable — as if her brain associates a cup of coffee with an increase in mood or productivity. Even just the realization that she went about her day without coffee meant that the rest of her day would be different. This reliance, not only from my friend, but also from so many other students and professionals, raises questions and concerns.

I love coffee as much as the next person, but I’m also a big advocate for getting up early and trying to not have any caffeine. Activities like taking a morning shower, going for a run or even doing a flow or two of yoga can help jumpstart the day and give you the added boost of energy we crave from coffee. The issue here, however, is that these activities take some form of time and effort, while a coffee can be ready in a few short minutes or can cost you a few dollars before you go about a busy day.

Maybe it’s more than just the taste that makes so many people addicted (if that were the case, everybody would just be drinking decaf). It seems that we love coffee for its soothing flavors or its useful function to help us “catch up with friends,” but more than that, we might actually love the way coffee makes us feel physically and mentally, hence creating the addiction. I had a teacher back in high school who couldn’t leave her house without a cup of coffee. She’d have another one at lunch and sometimes even another one right after school. Back then I didn’t question it, but now I wonder if that much coffee is even needed, or if someone who drinks that much daily coffee has what would be considered a high tolerance.

Similar to other drug and alcohol uses, the more one regularly consumes the drug, the more they will inevitably need to increase the doses in order to feel the high. Like someone who needs more beers to feel a buzz or someone who smokes multiple joints to get high, wouldn’t someone who drinks cups upon cups of coffee a day still need more to feel energized?

And with this comes the concern: How much caffeine is too much caffeine? The answer clearly varies from one coffee consumer to the next and will look different depending on specific health conditions. I know I stay away from coffees on days when I’m feeling more anxious, or I’ll only drink it before 6:00 p.m., allowing myself to still get a restful night of sleep.

No matter what kind of coffee drinker you are — or even if you’re new to drinking coffee — it’s not a bad idea to research how caffeine might affect you individually and how to moderate your coffee drinking habits.

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