Coffeehouses on College Campus: The first step to addiction

By: Sarah Atkins

College students today have more on their plate than ever. From classes, to homework, clubs, work, and so much more when do they have time to sleep? Students are struggling to find a solution to this problem with the overwhelming amount of work they have. In Paul Heilker writing, On Genre’s as Ways of Being, he discusses every personal genre is a way of being in the world. Are there common genre’s that have become harmful to us without even knowing?

Where does the problem start?

College campuses today have a growing amount of coffeehouses due to the growth in coffee drinkers. According to an article by Everyday Health, about 83% of adults drink coffee everyday and about half of these people began drinking coffee in college years. This growing trend of having more than one coffeeshops on college campuses fed into one of the most common mood altering drugs in the world — caffeine.

Why would this matter though? In the medical world caffeine addiction isn’t considered a danger or a concern. Anyone who drinks any type of caffeinated beverage can become easily addicted and withdrawals will only cause a slight headache and maybe other small symptoms that at tops will last two weeks. Some medical professionals even say it shouldn’t be considered an addiction due to the low impact that it can have on your body. It is not the actual addiction to caffeine that is the concern, but the behavior it brings to a person.

Studies show most health habits start in your college years. It’s the first time you are away from home, making your own decisions, and starting your very own adult life. Having this mixed with the most common time for a young adult to pick up the most common addiction can be a bad combination. New college students quickly become overwhelmed with the amount of work that is expected out of them and are willing to find any solution to their stress.

Colleges and coffee

How does this connect all back to coffeehouses on campuses? Well, with coffee being the number one most addictive drug for adults, it is the easiest accessible drug (even though most people don’t even think of coffee this way). Coffee becomes a student’s first addiction, creating an addictive quality in them. Slowly throughout an academic college year, especially for freshman, a student starts depending on more and more to keep them going. This most commonly is caffeine. But eventually a student begins to get more stressed and looks for another substance to help them keep going. The pre-made characteristic of addiction is already pre-formed in a student whether or not they necessarily know it.

This addictive characteristics leads into a student’s social life. A study done by the National Drug Association, shows that young adults from the ages of 16–19 will most likely experiment with some type of illegal drug or substance. When a student is already addicted to one substance, they are most likely to become to addicted to at least two more substances. This leads to drug addictions and alcoholism. A study by Health Daily, showed that students who even experiment with drugs will be more likely to drop out of college. Meaning that more and more students who are beginning these “small addictions” have a more likely chance of dropping out. This lowers a school’s income and their reputation.

How to stop this addiction

How can a university actually change this path of addiction for their students? This seems like an overwhelming task, when there are Starbucks on every corner all carrying this caffeine. College authorities can’t stop students from drinking coffee and it would not be a popular choice to take away coffeehouses in general, considering that they do offer more than just a coffee, like social and studying aspects. Even though a college might not be able to control how many Starbucks open up in a single town, it can control how many are on their campus alone.

Western Washington University has twelve coffee locations on their campus alone. All of which take student meal points and are in all the busiest sections of campus. The key to fixing this problem is lower the accessibility to students. Taking the coffeeshops out of campuses will make students hesitate to take the time to go off campus for their own convenience. Which will cause less students to drink the overwhelming amount of caffeine in one day.

Western Washington University can also increase the awareness for addiction. By having students aware of the addiction that coffee can cause could possibly lower the amount of coffee drinkers. Education is the most powerful tool and by having awareness students opinions could be changed. As a freshman at Western Washington, I was not given much awareness from the school itself for substances and drug abuse. Though I was told how to get help and possibly go find awareness, it was not something that was taught to students as widely as compared as crime awareness. Just adding some type of presentation to orientation or some type of student required survey could affect a student’s decisions.

Some people may say that taking away coffeeshops may seem extreme. The change doesn’t have to be so extreme, for example taking away all coffee shops. Just lowering the amount by possibly half will even change how often students will be led to drinking caffeine throughout their whole day. The school could avoid losing money by replacing the coffee places with more food locations. This will give students more dining options and even help decrease the problem of dietary needs on campus. The lose of money in the renovations to change the coffeeshops to other food locations could quickly be fixed after opening. Western Washington struggles with having an adequate amount of vegan, dairy-free, and other dietary problems and it could be an opportunity to open up more dining options. This could be something the school prides themselves on and something that could be advertised to prospective students. As a student at Western I am urging administration to take a look at these issues and consider making a change.

A Quick Summary

Even though the connection between caffeine and addictive behavior may seem like a distant relation, it is a prevalent problem in college students today and is a problem not looked at well enough. Western Washington University could be the first college to take recognition for this problem and set way for standards in colleges all across the nation.

It is has been talked about in recent years the rise in numbers in drug and alcohol addiction in younger and younger people. Even though lowering the amount of coffee locations on college campuses might not fix the problem completely it could start a way of recovery for this new trend.


Studies from the Harvard School of Public Health show the amount of coffee and when people drink it throughout the day. This trend shows that the most common time is morning. Colleges can look at this data to help decide when would be good times to cut down cafe hours.

Chart made by Sarah Atkins

Data Comes from Harvard School of Public Health

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