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Dear Dale, 

My caf­feine depen­dency is spi­raling out of control. I need coffee before doing any­thing and carry a thermos of it with me at all times. How do I cut back without being exhausted all of the time?

-Dependent Danica

Danica,

There’s nothing like the aca­demic and social stress of college to build up a desire for caf­feine. And you’re not alone — research shows that Amer­icans drink 400 million cups of coffee per day. But those lattes are more than just a sweet drink: Caf­feine is clas­sified as a chem­i­cally addicting drug. It lit­erally changes your brain, blocking receptors from sensing tiredness and pro­ducing feelings of alertness. Some sci­en­tists say daily con­sumption over time changes the physical char­ac­ter­istics of your brain. So, I hate to break it to you, but you’re not just dependent, you’re addicted.

Be aware that drinking less coffee may produce with­drawal symptoms, so make sure you cut back grad­ually, drink lots of water, and take it easy on yourself. If you like tea, try drinking it instead some­times since it has a lower caf­feine content. Replace some of your daily coffees with decaf — you may be sur­prised at how just the taste and smell can trick your brain into feeling more alert.

Finally, examine the under­lying causes of your addiction. You’re clearly tired a lot — are you getting enough sleep? Do you eat enough nutri­tious meals? Make sure to pri­or­itize your health and your caf­feine addiction may wane as a result. 

To submit ques­tions to Dear Dale, contact The Col­legian on social media or email cabbo@hillsdale.