Coffee Keeps You Up, But At What Cost?


Dunkin’ is a huge part of Williston: the walk, the company, and most importantly, the coffee. But when you’re holding that iced pumpkin latte with oat milk, do you ever think about the emotional, mental, and historical ramifications behind the drink in your hand?
Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. As the world becomes more fast paced, coffee continues to grow in popularity, especially among the younger generation.
Coffee originated on the Arabian Peninsula and then spread to many other countries in the Middle East. Like tea, the popularity of coffee was brought to Europe by European merchants. Originally, coffee was feared by many in Europe because of the bitter taste; it was called the “bitter invention of Satan.” Coffee was then brought to the American colonies, first to New Amsterdam (now known as New York).
Coffee culture in the United States is more popular then ever, with the market reaching revenues over $80 billion annually, according to Business Wire. In Easthampton alone, with a population of just above 16,000 people, there are seven coffee shops.
Many young people in the United States start drinking coffee in their teens.
Senior Sofia Michalski said she had coffee for the first time in middle school. “But I started drinking it regularly freshman year because I needed to stay up.” Most people The Willistonian spoke to said they started drinking coffee around the age of 15 or 16, consistent with an increase in school work and responsibility in high school.
In an NPR interview, author of the book “Caffeine,” Michael Pollan explained the chemical mechanisms behind the drink.
We have a neurotransmitter called adenosine … Over the course of the day, levels of it rise, and its job is to gradually make us tired — create what’s called sleep pressure,” Pollan said. “So, eventually, we turn out the lights and go to sleep, [and] there is a receptor that the adenosine fits into. And, as it turns out, caffeine fits into the same receptor — it gets there before the adenosine has a chance to. So it essentially blocks the action of that neurotransmitter — you never get the signal that you’re tired.”
The ramifications of these effects are clear. Junior Alexis Caines said that drinking caffeine “definitely increases my anxiety when I have a stressful day ahead.”
The blocking of this neurotransmitter can be detrimental to teenage mental health. This can cause more anxiety, as well as insomnia and other side effects of sleep deprivation. Too much caffeine can also overstimulate the nervous system and even change brain chemistry, making pre-existing mental health problems worse.