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February 24, 2004

Hope for the Hopeless

Caffeine Molecule


Caffeine. It is America's drug of choice—perhaps the whole world's—and doubly so if you look at the college-age population. In making this assertion, I am overtly and consciously ignoring alcohol as the college drug of choice. This is for many reasons, most important of which is the fact that I have something to say about caffeine and this introductory paragraph is really just crap. Another equally important reason on which I will justify my decision is that caffeine is the college drug of choice used with some beneficial purpose in mind. Again, I am sure people will contest this last point, claiming alcohol too can be used for beneficial purposes, particularly for saying and doing (sketchy) things with relative impunity. Point conceded. If your purpose is to tell that bastard that he really sucks or that man/woman that you would not mind doing them, I grant you that alcohol will definitely help you on your way there. Restricting the definition of beneficial to substances that aid in academics or work, however, removes alcohol from the mix, as it has no beneficial role to play in this context. And no, it still does not count as beneficial if you are suicidal and need to drink to get through school or work.

Anyway, returning to my original point, if you were to further breakdown the college-age population to those who major in a technical field, the amount of caffeine use (or abuse) grows to unparalleled levels. Caffeine and techies go together like peanut butter and jelly. (Sorry, I had to say that.) It is the de facto standard if not the de jure decree. Just look at all the soda machines and coffee cups strewn about Evans, Cory, and Etcheverry. Or the caffeine paraphernalia at places like Think Geek. This is not to say that those in the arts, humanities, and social sciences do not use and abuse—just that they do to a lesser extent than the average student in a technical major.

Consider the case of the wannabe poets sitting in dark coffee shops reading bad poetry. Better yet, don't. Let's just leave that point as it is. If you disagree or are in fact a wannabe poet, I deplore you and encourage you to post a comment so I can publicly humiliate you some more.

Personally, for a very long time, I fell into that traditional stereotype, consuming mass amounts of caffeine to get through the day. Worse, my rate of consumption was growing at an alarming rate. There are only so many ways to get your fix, and everyone has their own choice. I am not a fan of hot drinks, so I use soda to get my caffeine. But sometime last year (I think around August), I decided that I wanted to see if I could stop. You know, just to prove to myself that I could. So if I were to get addicted to something worse, like crack or something, I would know I could stop any time I wanted to. Anyway, I drastically cut down on all caffeine consumption, drinking water instead of soda at lunch, juice instead of soda at dinner, and stopped the caffeine in the morning. My experiment was successful and last fall found me at the lowest rates of caffeine abuse in years. Conclusion: I can now safely do crack.

This year, I have continued my healthy lifestyle, still limiting my intake, and consciously avoiding it when possible. This is where the hope part comes in. Last night, I decided to drink a cup of coffee at around 11 p.m., so I could study some more for midterms and not collapse when I got home. Well, I don't know if it was coffee laced with acid or what, but I slept at 1 a.m. last night and woke up randomly at 4:30 a.m., unable to sleep, no matter how I tried. It's not like I even wanted to be awake! I just could not go to sleep, no matter what.

I used to do exact same thing last spring—drink coffee around 11 p.m.—fairly frequently, and I never, ever had any trouble falling asleep. Moreover, I am not someone prone to insomnia. When I sleep, I sleep hard! I barely even dream. (That could be because of the whole selling my soul business a few years ago, but that's a different story.)

So, in any case, this is shocking! Just one semester off of caffeine, and the potency of the drug has jumped many orders of magnitude. So, all you caffeine addicts out there for whom it takes eight shots of espresso to get going in the morning, do not despair! You do not have to switch to methamphetamine just yet! Just slow down for a while and your tolerance will go down! Then you can once again begin your abuse, without the fear of negative side effects! Wow, this must be a first—a genuinely optimistic entry. Wait, I'm not done yet.

Fine Print: As with any experiment, environmental factors could have distorted results. It is my responsibility to inform you that I have been pretty stressed out the last few days, and my insomnia could feasibly be an effect of this stress. This variable, however, has been determined to be statistically insignificant, considering that I slept just fine all other days when stressed out, when I did not consume caffeine late in the day.


Anything you can do at work isn't a drug.

Also, I'd like to say, if coffee is a drug, than exercise is also (since it releases endorphins), and sex is a drug, and pretty much everything is a drug. Fooey!

Just leave me alone so I can enjoy my drugs. *sip*

Well, I'm not saying it's a bad thing. I'm really just saying that if you have reached a point where caffeine has absolutely *no* effect on you, then you don't have to look to more potent substances to get through the day. Just offering a glimmer of hope for all those addicts out there (or users, or whatever).

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