By Alice Horner
As students struggle through the late nights and final projects of the semester, The Elm investigated the culture of caffeine use on campus that keeps students going.
Washington College’s main caffeine stops are Java George and Sassafras Outtakes, yet with Play It Again Sam’s and Dunkin’ Donuts off-campus and the nearest Starbucks 40 minutes away in Middletown, Delaware, what do students resort to after the Sassafras Outtakes closes at 11 p.m?
Senior Taylor Robinson said availability is her main grievance. “The caffeine products on campus are fine, the only thing is there is nowhere past 11 p.m. to get caffeine, which makes it difficult sometimes, especially for pulling all-nighters,” said Robinson.
Molly O’Connell, a senior, remembers that before Sassafras opened, the coffee selection “was awful, because we had to steal coffee from the dining hall, and that was nasty.”
Tracy Phillips, Java George supervisor, said she has customers whom she sees “maybe two to three times a day.” When asked if she thought students were dependent on caffeine, she said, “I really honestly do. It’s sad to say, but there really is [a dependence].”
Mandy Moore, a junior psychology major on the pre-med track, said she has a definite dependence on caffeine. She mainly relies on soda to keep her going through the afternoon and evening slump, because that is when the real work begins.
“I know a lot of science majors that don’t even get to touch their homework until seven at night. We spend our mornings in class and our afternoons in labs,” Moore said.
Students with more writing-intensive majors also turn to caffeine to help churn out long essays.
“Whenever I have to write a six to eight page paper, I need my Dr. Pepper or I crash,” said freshman George Essig.
Sophomore Kristine Beskin says she needs a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew to write a four page paper, and she needs caffeine to finish any assignment.
“And I’m an English major, so I write those kinds of papers all the time,” she said. On a daily basis, Beskin says she drinks about a case of soda a day.
Freshman Jude Buddenbohn describes himself as a “former caffeine addict” who now uses a different stimulant: nicotine.
“I’ll have a soda every now and then. I used to have three sodas a day,” Buddenbohn said.
Before he stopped consuming caffeine, “after about the third day of not having any, I would get angry for no apparent reason.”
“I need caffeine to finish an assignment,” said junior Mac Boyle. Over the summer Boyle explained, his caffeine consumption decreases because it is mainly “a work-related thing.”
Senior Jenn Hobbs says she is not reliant on caffeine to finish assignments. “I only drink caffeinated beverages for the extra energy if I really need it. Luckily, I’m not a total coffee addict yet. I mainly drink coffee because I like the taste. The caffeine is just an added bonus,” Hobbs said.
Yet that added bonus can turn into a health hazard. Director of Health Services Dawn Nordhoff says that she sees two to three students come in every semester who have overloaded on caffeine and are experiencing heart palpitations and having trouble breathing. “We have occasionally sent students to the emergency room,” Nordhoff said.
“I have a lot of concern about the energy drinks, particularly when used with alcohol,” said Nordhoff. She explained that the typical amount of caffeine that causes dizziness and nausea is one gram. An eight ounce Red Bull drink has 80 milligrams, an eight ounce brewed coffee contains 80-135 milligrams, and a 16 ounce Starbucks coffee has 330 milligrams.
Dr. Michael Kerchner, Associate Professor of Psychology, says that caffeine blocks the receptors for adenosine, a chemical in the brain that causes drowsiness. Caffeine consumption also stimulates dopamine, known as the pleasure chemical, which is released into the reward system of the brain, said Kerchner. In other words, this is why we enjoy that first cup of coffee in the morning, and that is why it is addictive.
While juniors and seniors remember the good old days when a Starbucks beverage could be purchased in exchange for a meal they did not eat, many students currently protest the Java George price for a latte.
“I have quite a problem with the prices,” said Essig. “As a poor college kid on scholarships as opposed to riding on my parents’ coattails, I can’t go around buying coffee every other day.”
“They should offer meal exchange at Java George,” said Buddenbohn. “A coffee costs the same as a sandwich for some reason.”
Hobbs, however, sees the prices as fairly reasonable. “Comparatively, we probably are paying way too much for a cup of coffee when you consider how cheap it is to make it yourself, but we’re also paying for people to work at Java George, and if we want something other than just a plain cup of coffee (like a latte or a cappuccino) then we’re paying for that too. Plus when you think about a place like Starbucks, I think the prices at Java George are probably actually a little cheaper,” Hobbs said.