Baristas: socially acceptable drug dealers

It has become virtually impossible to walk around campus or drive through town without passing a Starbucks, Dutch Bros. or another local java hotspot.

Clearly, there is a pressing demand from consumers for coffee to be readily available anytime, anywhere. The function of this aromatic brew has also recently transformed from one of merely a social beverage to a necessary fix — sometimes several fixes — to get through the day.

Although numerous coffee shops still serve a social function, the product itself has become so streamlined that it is procurable from grocery stores, gas stations and even vending machines.

Regular patrons of such establishments become accustomed to receiving the benefits of caffeine consumption and quickly learn to rely on its effects to function even somewhat normally.

This anomaly is not even limited to coffee, either; energy drinks such as Monster and Red Bull are just as ubiquitous and also serve a similar, potentially detrimental purpose.

In 2007, East Carolina University and Virginia State University conducted a survey on college students’ intake of energy drinks. Of those who admitted to consuming these beverages, 29 percent endured jolt and crash episodes, 22 percent suffered from headaches and 19 percent even experienced heart palpitations.

Of course, such a mental stimulant in moderation is perfectly apropos and often advantageous during pressing situations. The American Medical Association found no statistical backing for the theory that a relatively normal caffeine intake produces a negative effect on health.

However, the fact of the matter is that caffeine is classifiably a drug and, when consistently consumed at such excessive levels, leads to substance dependence and potential repercussions for one’s long term health.

A prolonged period of over-consumption results in cardiac stress and, if permitted to continue, irreparable damage to the cardiovascular system.

Furthermore, a caffeine addict would experience withdrawal symptoms akin to those a normal drug junkie would with sudden discontinuation of their abused substance of choice. These include but are not limited to headaches, mood swings, extreme fatigue and nausea.

Yet the primary problem with caffeine addiction is not that people are unaware of its deleterious effects or that they are entirely dependent on this substance to get through the day.

In fact, it has become a kind of running joke to admit to being a caffeine addict; people often dismiss this serious condition as merely a necessary component of functioning in such a fast-paced, ever-progressive world. I once heard a Starbucks barista refer to herself as a “socially acceptable drug dealer.”

Thus, it becomes a rather formidable task for a self-titled addict to even consider honing down their caffeine habit because of the drug’s pervasive accessibility and social normalcy. Ultimately, then, the issue comes down to self-control and regulation on the part of the individual.

The coffee shops may line the street and the people may jest about their addiction, but the choice to partake in such consumption is a matter of individual responsibility.

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