‘Safe drug’ can pose health problems


Christian Magallanes/The Skyline View

A photo of the Skyline College coffee shop.

Caffeine is taken to stay awake and to get things done. But for some people, straight coffee, energy drinks and tea are not doing it anymore.

Walk around campus and you will likely see coffee cups everywhere. Cups from Peet’s, Starbucks and especially from Skyline’s World Cup Coffee and Tea here on campus. Walk into the dining hall in Building 6 and the line for coffee can go to the door. Kevin Chak, manager of World Cup Coffee and Tea, estimates a sale of 550 drinks sold a day Monday thru Thursday and 400 drinks sold on Fridays. Caffeine is addictive but the question lies in what makes it so.

Caffeine is popular mainly because it is known to keep people awake and provide an energy boost. This is important to college students, who may be working while they have to study for tests. It’s a legal drug that allows students to complete the many tasks that occupy their time.

Don’t like the taste of coffee or tea? That’s no deterrent. Caffeine is found in many energy drinks, such as Monster, Rockstar and Redbull. Sky Cafe has over 30 drinks with caffeine available. No time to chug a drink? NoDoz pills are on the market to give you the equivalent of two cups of coffee in one pill. There is even powdered caffeine that can be bought to add to smoothies or any of your favorite beverages or foods.

With all these options for caffeine consumption on the market, isn’t it possible that even though caffeine is considered safe in moderation, that there is a risk that it can become dangerous to your body?

The answer is yes, according to the FDA, who say that 300 milligrams per day of caffeine is safe. That is about two to four cups of coffee depending on the cup size. Effects can include increased alertness and increased memory and concentration. The effects of caffeine can begin 15 minutes after consumption and last for up to six hours. Compare that to the recommended dosage of NoDoz, which is 1/2 to 1 caplet every three to four hours. With a cup of coffee in the morning, an energy drink in the afternoon and a NoDoz after work so homework can be completed, the safe amount of caffeine can easily be exceeded. Even for those who aren’t fond of coffee or energy drinks, it’s easy to exceed the acceptable level caffeine by using the powdered caffeine that is available to be blended into smoothies. One teaspoon of pure caffeine is equal to 25 cups of coffee. Because of its potency, the FDA is recommending that people not use it all.

Medical professionals at the health center on campus say that they occasionally see students suffering from heart palpitations and shortness of breath because they have taken too many NoDoz pills to study for tests.

“Patients do come in with possible health associations from caffeine use,” Cornelia Tjandra, a physician’s assistant at Skyline’s health center said.

The health center often sees students over the age of 30 who have developed a sensitivity to caffeine, which they say is very common.