Too much caffeine is not a good thing

Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown

Last-minute studying during finals week leads to some students abusing caffeine products, but those students may not realize the consequences of excess caffeine.

“The key to using caffeine is using it in moderation,” said Brenda Andersen, associate director at Student Health and Counseling Services.

Using caffeine, dietary supplements and excess sugars can all result in negative consequences. One major problem with using caffeine to stay awake while studying is that it only temporarily gives people energy to study. Once the caffeine begins to wear off, the human body goes into withdrawals. According to, withdrawal symptoms include headache, fatigue, drowsiness and difficulty concentrating and retaining information.

“I’m pretty much addicted to coffee, and I get caffeine headaches if I don’t have at least two cups a day,” said Ellie Jensen, a junior psychology major. “I drink even more caffeine during finals week.”

Energy drinks such as Red Bull, Rock Star and Full Throttle can be especially harmful to students when used in excess. The sugary drinks are extremely high in calories, and after multiple cans of them, the calories start to add up quickly, according to Although energy drinks will give a short burst of energy, they also cause agitation, hyperactivity, difficulty concentrating and problems sleeping.

“Excess sugars will cause your blood sugar levels to rise but then rapidly go down,” said Dr. David Eggers, a chiropractor in Brookings. “When your blood sugar is low, it decreases your ability to remember. You’re better off to try eating more fruits and vegetables over the refined sugars.”

Caffeine tablets such a NoDoz, Snap-Back and Stay-Alert all act as a nervous system or brain stimulant which causes an increase in alertness. However, these too can have serious effects on the body – such as anxiety or panic reactions, muscle twitching and trembling – if overused or if you have a medical condition. According to, a healthcare professional needs to be contacted if these symptoms begin.

“Supplements like NoDoz can be really harmful to you,” said Andersen. “They really should not be used by students.”

“I don’t recommend the use of caffeine for studying at all,” said Eggers. “There are multiple other ways to stay alert.”

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) is one positive way to help stay alert. The Niacin can create a brain flush that will have an alertness effect on people, explained Eggers. It will cause a slight flush and blotchiness in the face and a sense of warmness, but that should go away within 20 to 30 minutes, leaving a feeling of alertness. Vitamin B3 is available at local drug or health food stores.

Other positive ways to help stay alert are to maintain a healthy diet and drink plenty of water. It is important to stay hydrated with water because excess use of energy drinks and coffee can often lead to dehydration, which causes fatigue. Green teas are also a healthy choice.

The key to surviving finals week is to plan ahead for studying, don’t procrastinate, get plenty of sleep and lay off the caffeine.