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COLUMN: Dangerous distortions from no sleep, too much caffeine


Give me caffeine or give me death.

That’s been my personal mantra ever since I could get my hands on coffee, energy drinks and Diet Coke. I didn’t need it, but when my blood was filled with Rockstar or espresso, I was vibrant and talkative and happy. You know the feeling -- when you have energy to get everything done and still have time for fun.

When you’re high on life, and caffeine, why would you ever want to sleep? This is the flawed logic of caffeine junkies.

It is a quick fix, for a short time, but the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation combined with caffeine overuse are more than a little concerning.

If you look up sleep deprivation symptoms on Google, you’ll find symptoms that include hallucinations or delirium. Imagine combining a bad LSD trip with a hangover. That’s what you get when you pull multiple all-nighters and forgo sleep.

Couple that with the negative side effects of caffeine – a substance classified as a psychoactive drug – and you quickly find out how overconsumption becomes dangerous.

In 2014, CBS News reported the death of an 18-year-old athlete in Lagrange, Ohio. The teen was home for lunch and ingested a fatal amount of caffeine powder. Caffeine powders are a favorite ingredient for people who want to make their own energy drinks. Some of those people, especially athletes, use caffeine powders as a pre-workout mix.

This powder, which is not regulated and can be easily purchased in stores and online, carries a set of medical red flags. It is potent and easy to overdose on because the dosage is undefined and left up to the consumer.

Law enforcement and emergency crews found the Ohio teen collapsed on the floor. His official cause of death was a combination of seizures and cardiac arrhythmia due to the incredible amount of caffeine pumping through his veins.

At the very least, overdosing on caffeine can cause nausea, vomiting and an irregular heartbeat. It can aggravate any previous health conditions such as anxiety and diabetes.

At the very worst, it could end your life.

If those are actual things that could happen, why do we continue to tempt fate with caffeine?

We live in a society that rewards overexertion, and somewhere along the line, sleep became a luxury instead of a necessity for most college students.

We forget that it is still crucial to sleep more than a few hours at a time just to function normally. Living in purposeful ignorance about the dangers of caffeine is reckless, and continuing use after suffering any of these symptoms is the definition of addiction.

Caffeine abusers are legal drug addicts, desperate for our next fix, and it’s only a matter of time before we hit rock bottom.

We must remember that we’re humans, not machines. We don’t need caffeine fuel – we need a good night of sleep and maybe the occasional nap. We have to remember we’re not invincible.

After all, living from one alcohol-drenched weekend to another isn’t the only bad college habit that can kill you.

That espresso in your hand could do it, too.