What’s your morning brew really doing to you?

College students are nothing short of busy. They’ve all gotten comments from friends and family members wondering how they do it all — studying, work, socializing and beyond. Most can admit to having overflowing schedules, trying to cram the work of a whole day into just a few hours.

So, what’s the quickest fix when you’re running on empty and have a million more things to do? Caffeine.

Caffeine is disguised in various types of soda, energy drinks and sugary foods like chocolate. But its most popular form is coffee.

The average American drinks about 3.2 cups of coffee per day, and according to TIME Magazine, American consumers spend over $40 billion on coffee each year. Unsurprisingly, according to HowStuffWorks, coffee is the most commonly consumed beverage in the United States.

Caffeine is thought of as a tool that college students use to work harder and faster in times where there is just no other option. How could a busy college student not use it? It easily gives students the one thing they lack most in college — energy. 

Although caffeine may be a lifesaver for some, when you look past the visible benefits of the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world, there are some problems lurking.

“Heavy doses [of caffeine], generally greater than 400 milligrams, have been associated typically with gastrointestinal upset or worsening of anxiety or sleep problems,” said Dr. Melissa Reznar, assistant professor of health sciences at Oakland University. “As a guide, 8 oz. of brewed coffee or 2 oz. of espresso has about 150–170 milligrams, and a 12 oz. can of soda has about 50 milligrams.”

According to Medical News Today, caffeine has also been proven to cause health problems like insomnia, irritability and fast heartbeat.

“Drinking too much caffeine causes irritability and anxiety,” said Kyle Combs, a second degree nursing student at OU. “Caffeine withdrawal causes tension headaches and light sensitivity.”

In spite of this, 54 percent of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee every day, many of whom are college students.

“I definitely think that students drink way too much caffeine,” said Marisa Papadelis, the treasurer of the Nutrition Society of Oakland University. “I think most of it has to do with sleep and studying and what they’re being asked to do with their lives. Many students don’t get enough sleep as it is, and us millennials are always looking for quick fixes to combat more everyday things like studying, work and making time for friends and family.”

If caffeine shouldn’t be used as a crutch in order for us to make it through the day, what else can we do to see positive effects on our energy level without the use of a psychoactive substance?

“Other ways to increase alertness include routinely engaging in physical activity, at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week; eating a primarily whole food, plant-based diet; getting enough sleep on a regular basis by sleeping enough hours nightly and avoiding fluctuations in sleep hours; and perhaps meditation,” Reznar said.

Just like having an excessive amount of anything, caffeine too can be very addictive. The occasional cup of Starbucks or can of Red Bull won’t hurt, as long as you know your limits and remember to use it, not abuse it.