Kicking the caffeine habit

Erik Hansen is a graduate student pursuing a Master of Public Policy and the Mustang Daily graduate columnist.

Some of the positive effects of your favorite caffeinated beverage include increased alertness, more energy and a feeling of overall awesomeness. In moderation, other benefits include antioxidants for heart health and possibly even skin cancer fighting properties. However, with caffeine, too much of a good thing can turn into a crutch, and eventually adversely impact your mental and/or physical health.

If you survive off a daily IV drip of coffee, espresso, Monster, Red Bull or, for the truly trashy, Mountain Dew and go into moody fits when you don’t have one handy, there’s a good chance you’re addicted. That’s OK though, because there are a lot worse things you could be addicted to, and if Whitney Houston can quit coke five or six times, you can probably quit caffeine once, or at least bring your intake down to a level that wouldn’t kill a rodent or small house cat.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the normally acceptable range of caffeine intake is about 500 to 600 milligrams a day, which equates to about three 8-ounce cups of drip coffee. For those who overindulge, long-term heavy caffeine users can experience insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, upset stomach, fast heartbeat, muscle tremors and an increased risk for high blood pressure and stroke. I would guess depression as well, because having those symptoms would be a depressing way to go through life. Caffeine also acts as a diuretic, causing you to go to the bathroom more often, or pass out from dehydration during one of your intense Shake Weight workouts.

There’s no better time than now to cut back on your caffeine use. What if the zombie apocalypse happened tomorrow and you didn’t have access to caffeine? Would you be able to function? I’m guessing all of our local Starbucks would close, so you’d need to have all of your wits to survive. This is just the type of realistic question you should ask yourself on a daily basis, because in life, there are winners and losers (just ask Charlie Sheen), survivors and zombie victims.

Cutting your caffeine intake will not be fun, and depending on your level of dependency, you could experience headaches lasting for as long as a week, not to mention lethargy, restlessness and moodiness for a month or longer. Eventually they’ll subside though, and you probably won’t die in the process, unless the zombie apocalypse occurs during that time.

With summer fast approaching, your time away from the classroom might make for an excellent opportunity to re-baseline what your body thinks it needs in order to wake up in the morning. The following tips are meant to help those about to take the leap. These tips come from WebMD, which means they’re legit because they’re from Internet doctors, duh.

Take pain relievers: For the headaches, try over-the-counter aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen. No, not Oxy, Norco or Vicodin — it’s probably best not to replace one addiction with another. Also, try to stay away from Excedrin, which is a caffeine-containing pain reliever.

Increase water intake: Drinking tons of water is already a good thing for your body, but drinking a ton of water will also help alleviate those headaches. Drinking water gives you something to down instead of coffee. In addition, your blood pressure may drop a little while you withdraw from caffeine, and drinking large quantities of water could bring it up a little, helping you feel better.

Sleep more: Duh. This is probably the reason you got hooked on caffeine in the first place. The benefits of getting seven or eight hours of sleep a night are too numerous to count, and deserves a column of its own. If your life is so crazy that you can’t get a good night’s sleep, then you need to make some life adjustments. Keep in mind these words from David Hasselhoff, “When you burn the candle from both ends, it’s bound to burn out sooner. I love cheeseburgers!”

Exercise more: Along with sleep, getting exercise will help increase your energy and mood. Plus, it can help distract your body from the pain it’s currently going through. Imagine coming out of your withdrawals less caffeine-dependent and in awesome shape!

Get a massage: There are some legit places in town to get a professional massage, and there are some illegitimate places in Pismo or Grover Beach to get a massage as well. Either way, there are plenty of places where you can go and pay $60 an hour or less (plus tip) for a massage when your boyfriend or girlfriend gets sick of you asking. Getting a massage can help relax your body, lessening your headaches and restlessness.

Did I mention the money you’ll save? Not that you needed another reason to consume less caffeine. So long as you have a strong will and some determination, kicking the habit should be no problem.

  • Cheers

    so you’re recommending that we stop feeling alert, energetic, and… awesomeness, to get hooked on pain pills and $60 massages so we can lower our blood pressure and spend less time going to the bathroom? I think I’ll take my chances lugging my French press through the zombie wasteland.
    oh yeah and for the assumption about depression: high caffeine consumption is correlated with lower suicide rates… so I guess being irritable isn’t all that bad.
    -Cheers

  • GoGoGo

    Did you even read the other articles on caffeine consumption ON THE MUSTANG DAILY SITE? They actually did the research and contradicted everything bad you came up with= FAIL!
    http://mustangdaily.net/how-to-be-a-conscious-coffee-addict/

  • Kyle

    I guess I should quit drinking 3-5 cups of green tea a day, even though drinking tea usually gets rid of my headaches. I guess it’s healthier to load up on asprin, as caffeine is much more dangerous than the potential stomach and liver damage caused by painkillers. And I guess I should just ignore the cancer fighting qualities of tea and coffee, too, because having to pee a little bit more often and feeling just plain awesome sucks.

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