As a kid I loved a cold cola on a sweaty summer day. I was 12 when I drank my first coffee and two years later, I couldn’t wake up without one. At 15 I tried Red bull. At 17 I refused to go the gym without a pre-workout. At 18 years old I started working in a bar and drinking energy drinks as if they were water. I’m now 19 and I haven’t drunk caffeine in almost two months. I noticed that going cold turkey and quitting caffeine has had quite some effects on my physical and mental state of being. These changes have made me question my relationship with this energy-creating drug. Spurring me on to explore what it really does and if there is a healthy way to have it in my life. 

Caffeine has been integrated into our society for centuries and is consumed by over 90 percent of the population. Many people start their day with it and as you may know, it is also extremely popular amongst students. Despite its popularity, many people don’t know caffeine can be considered a drug as it stimulates the central nervous system, generally keeps people awake and improves the mood of the user.  

But how exactly does this work? People often say that caffeine gives you energy. However, it works slightly differently. Caffeine blocks the so-called adenosine receptor; in layman’s terms it masks you from feeling tired. Besides this it can also improve your mood because when those receptors are shut off, your body makes more dopamine. We humans tend to easily get dependent on this feeling. This is often why your parent or roommate is cranky before their first cup of coffee in the morning. My apologies if you happen to be this roommate. If it makes you feel any better… So am I.  

For most users, caffeine is just a pleasant way to start their day, or a nice tool to focus on that impossibly large project, but for others the substance has transformed into a daily necessity. Although it is not often talked about, caffeine addiction is definitely possible. Here is what happens: when being dependent on caffeine, it is very easy to develop a tolerance. This causes you to need more and more for that original energy kick just as you would for any other drugs or alcohol. When the coffee lover suddenly decides to quit, it is likely that they will experience extreme fatigue, headaches, feeling gloomy and in the worst cases it is even possible to have outbursts of shaking and sweating. It is common knowledge that the famous brownish liquid we call coffee has caffeine in it. But did you know that cola, tea and even chocolate milk have caffeine in them? 

Luckily the oh so loved substance does not only have negative side effects. Besides giving you energy and improving your mood caffeine can also be beneficial to your health. It can improve your brain function and reaction time. But a study has also proven that caffeine can lower the risks of depression, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's! However, when it comes to caffeine more isn’t always better.  

Personally, I started drinking caffeine when I was very young. First it was just because I liked the taste of the drinks, but this quickly transformed into a hunger for feeling alert.  However, caffeine does more than keeping you awake and has plenty more positive and negative side effects. It is only now since I have eliminated my caffeine intake that I notice how powerful it is. Although I sleep much better and longer, I struggle to get through the day and have a hard time focusing. I eat more and drink more sugary beverages because I seek my energy in other sources. However, what surprised me the most was the influence caffeine has had on my mental state of being. Now that I don’t drink it anymore, I notice I am more irritable and that my mood is far more fragile.  

I quit caffeine because I wanted to lower my tolerance and dependency but mostly because I was curious to see what it would change for me. Now that I noticed what my life is like without caffeine, I am more able to use it to my advantage rather than just being an unhealthy behavior. I wake up more naturally by waiting for the first caffeine a few hours after getting out of bed and after 8 I quit drinking caffeine to make sure it doesn’t affect my sleep. I am aware that quitting caffeine at all would be the healthiest option. However, the caffeine junkie in me is still alive. After all forbidden fruit is the sweetest. 

Are you curious to read more about the effects of caffeine? Consider reading the following articles!