Students wait up to 45 minutes for their coffee before class at the Starbucks in Beckman, often causing them to be late. Photo by Abbie DeMuth.

Chapman junior Megan Wiliams’ college goal is straight A’s balanced with a nice social life. A big part of her solution?


Constant coffee. 

She’s not alone. Recent studies show that more than 90 percent of college students consume some kind of caffeine. AND — 78 percent of them are drinking caffeine at above the recommended amount.  According to Professor Caroline Mahoney of Tufts University, coffee among college students is the primary source of caffeine, more than double the intake from energy drinks or tea.

Most students recognize you can consume too much. But they keep drinking anyway.

“I know the amount of caffeine I drink is bad for me,” said Williams, a communication studies major. “But Chapman hasn’t made it seem like it’s a big deal the way they do with alcohol and drugs. But abuse is abuse in any form.”

Before college, she rarely drank coffee. But once she got to Chapman, with the changing lifestyle, new friends, new clubs, new studies — PLUS the pressure to succeed — coffee seemed to help her cope.

Although experts say excessive caffeine consumption can lead to addiction, students like senior Hazly Marquina say it’s the norm.

“I drink around five cups of coffee a day,” said Marquina, a business and communications major.  “I don’t think it’s an addiction because I don’t consider it a drug. I mean, if it were a drug it wouldn’t be so readily available on campus. For me, it’s the safest alternative to help me balance school, work, and a social life.”

She’s right about the availability on campus.

The line between classes at Starbucks is long and constant. Often the same for Einstein Bagels in the Student Union. The dorms cafeteria and the Rotunda study area in Leatherby Libraries are also kept busy serving coffee. Food trucks on campus are another caffeine source.

One dance major wrote in a university paper that without Starbucks in the morning, irregularity would ruin his rigorous day. Many students say it’s just an automatic starter.

“The first thing I do when I wake up is drink coffee,” said sophomore Fiona Quilter, a studio art major. “It sets my entire day; it gives me a sense of structure and routine. Even on the weekends, I need coffee in the morning.”

According to Eugene, Oregon mental health therapist Leah Chapman, here is WHY too much caffeine can be bad for you:

“Addiction is a medical definition and that’s a chronic progressive disorder. Sugar intake, along with caffeine, can add to the effect on the brain’s chemicals, causing cravings. These cravings are what causes addiction to caffeine in coffee.”

Yet some students question whether Chapman does enough to emphasize the dangers of caffeine addiction at the same level it does drug and alcohol abuse.

But Dani Smith, who runs the Chapman program Proactive Education Encouraging Responsibility (P.E.E.R), says Chapman takes all addiction issues seriously. Added Smith:

“Any behavior that impinges upon our students’ health, welfare, goals, academic success is of concern. We give resources and information to all of our students with the belief that if they are struggling with a behavior or problem, they will reach out for support.”

Her website states in part:

  • “Large amounts of caffeine may cause serious heart and blood vessel problems such as heart rhythm disturbances and increases in heart rate and blood pressure.”
  • “Caffeine use may also be associated with anxiety, sleep problems, digestive problems, and dehydration.”

“Caffeine addiction is very much real,” said mental health therapist Chapman. “Humans can be addicted to nearly anything.”

But such warnings still go unheeded among many students. During the coronavirus quarantine, students can be seen clinging to their coffee cups during their Zoom sessions.

Said Megan Williams: “After a long day of classes and work, I needed caffeine to continue my studying.”

And coffee remains her caffeine of choice.

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