KSC spills the beans

Students address caffeine addiction as possible placebo 


The jitters, stained teeth, bad breath and a chunk out of a paycheck all seem worth it in the eyes of Keene State College students when it comes their unwavering love for coffee.

In the United States, more than 85 percent of adults and children regularly consume caffeine, according to the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders on Psychiatry Online.

Sophomore Marissa Keenan rarely goes a day without coffee. “The only time I ever go a day without coffee is because I don’t have time to go get it,” Keenan said.

Keenan is just one of the many KSC students who described coffee as a necessity in their life.

The question at hand is: what is caffeine really doing for people?

Does it actually give people that boost they so desperately need by midday, or is it simply a placebo effect where people have convinced themselves it is energizing them?

KSC Associate Professor of Health Science (with a specialization in addictions), Margaret Smith, shares her beliefs on what effect caffeine really has on people. “I would say it’s not a placebo effect, there are actually neuro-biological signs that say if you have too much caffeine, these symptoms will happen to you,” Smith said.

Photo Illustration by Brian Cantore / Photo Editor

Photo Illustration by Brian Cantore / Photo Editor

According to Psychiatry Online, caffeine intoxication could lead to some mildly dangerous symptoms.

These symptoms include insomnia, gastrointestinal disturbance, muscle twitching, restlessness and periods of inexhaustibility, just to name a few.

Maybe caffeine does have an effect on the human body, but it may not only be negative.

Does it ever provide anything beneficial? Or have consumers only been drinking it for the french vanilla and pumpkin spice flavors all this time?

Smith argued there are both pros and cons that coffee drinkers should be aware of.

She said that lower doses of caffeine simply make you more alert.

“It might create wakefulness, but if you exceed a certain amount, that’s when you’re going to have the intoxication effects,” Smith said.

The trick here is simple: don’t over-indulge. As Smith explained, too much of anything can be bad, so the essential thing to do is just be aware of daily caffeine intake and make sure it is a reasonable amount.

As a regular consumer of caffeine, Keenan said drinking coffee has become more of a habit than anything else for her.

“I honestly don’t necessarily think that the caffeine affects me. I think that it’s all in my head. I think it’s the placebo effect like ‘oh I’m tired so I’m going to go get a coffee,’ but I don’t think that caffeine really affects me,” Keenan said.

Perhaps people like Keenan have become so accustomed to having their daily coffee intake that they don’t realize the detrimental effect it could have on them.

For some who go without their usual caffeine intake is when they truly start to realize what it provides for them.

“The days where I can’t get coffee I’m fine but I’ll probably complain a lot,” Keenan added.

Another avid coffee drinker on campus is KSC sophomore Kate Charron, who drinks about three cups a day.

“I guess I could say I’m addicted to it because I get really bad headaches without it. It’s just something I do every day out of habit,” Charron said.

Other than the headaches, Charron does not believe that caffeine has much of an effect on her.

She shared that she could function without it, and drinking it has just become a part of her daily routine, similar to what Keenan had explained.

“I think there’s a lot of spheres in a student’s life that are extremely busy, and they use caffeine to help them get through the day,” Smith said.

And that’s exactly what KSC students have shared.

Although they can’t argue for certain if caffeine is truly helping keep them awake, they admit that just by having their coffee out of habit, they feel more prepared for the day’s endeavors.

For some, simply having that coffee nearby is a comforting reminder that they will be able to get through the day.

“When I’m drinking my coffee, I kind of just like the taste of it and I just think to myself ‘okay I have my coffee now I’m okay,’” Keenan said.


Sabrina Lapointe can be contacted at  slapointe@keene-equinox.com

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