Caffeine effects extend beyond the buzz

If you’re thinking of reaching over for a sip of your coffee or tea, be aware that your daily dose of caffeine may be tampering with more than just your energy level. Many students depend on a daily caffeine jolt to help them get through their days because caffeine is a mildly addictive drug, as Ruth Frechman, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, told the Los Angeles Times.

“Some people that come in here are addicted to coffee,” claims Bobby Ventura, a barista at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Thousand Oaks. “They come in, and order the same thing every day, and if they are running late, they are usually grumpy.”

National Geographic defines caffeine as a psychoactive drug, and reports that it is the most popular drug in the world. Regular use of caffeine can cause mild physical dependence. Caffeine is classified as a drug because it has the ability to stimulate the central nervous system, which causes increased alertness and wakefulness. Caffeine not only tinkers with energy levels, but can cause mood alterations as well.

Whether it’s in coffee, tea, energy drinks, caffeine pills, or sodas, depending on the milligrams consumed, caffeine can have a serious impact on the nervous system.

Julia Gonen, a naturopathic doctor, reports on the Livestrong website that caffeine increases levels of stress hormones such as cortisone, epinephrine and norephinepherine, which can lead to a quickened heart rate and higher blood pressure.

According to the American Dietetic Association website, caffeine affects each individual differently. A moderate amount of caffeine is considered to be around 200 to 300 milligrams per day, or about two to three small cups of coffee, which most adults can safely consume without adverse effects. The same amount, however, may make certain individuals feel jittery. A person’s general anxiety level, body weight and physical condition can all affect their caffeine sensitivity.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, black tea has between 14 to 61 milligrams of caffeine, and green tea can contain 24 to 40 milligrams. The caffeine in tea is dependent upon how long the tea is steeped.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which reports the caffeine content of several popular beverages, said that a generic brewed 16-ounce coffee contains about 266 milligrams of caffeine. However, brewed coffee from big chains like Starbucks contains about 320 milligrams in a 16-ounce cup. Espresso actually contains less caffeine than brewed coffee. A single shot from Starbucks has about 75 milligrams.

A 16-ounce chai tea latte from Starbucks contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine. The caffeine content in bottled teas, including brands such as Snapple, Arizona, and Nestea, is considerably less, ranging from 10 to 42 milligrams per serving. Energy drinks can contain anywhere from 48 to 300 milligrams, depending on the brand and serving size.

When consumed in moderation, any form of caffeine can boost energy levels. In excess, however, it can cause anxiety and irritability, according to the Mayo Clinic website.

It appears as though many Santa Monica College students enjoy their taste of bitterness in the morning, and continue to drink caffeinated beverages despite potential adverse effects on the nerves.

“I don’t care that coffee messes with my nervous system,” says Jaime Hughes, an SMC business major. “I’m comfortable with that.”