Yes, the title of this post is “Why I Switched from Coffee to Caffeine Pills”. If you are like most people, you are sizing up what flavor of crazy I am. Hear me out.
When I need a burst of concentration or energy for a few hours or weeks, I use caffeine pills instead of drinking coffee. I’ve found the pills are far more convenient and reliable, and much less expensive. They’ve worked very well for me for the last 2+ years. I can carry them anywhere and use them anytime without relying on the whims of some freshly tattooed barista for my fix. I can control the dosage far more accurately, allowing me to have more energy when I need it and the ability to taper off the dose to get off the sauce without much fuss.
In the spring of 2012 I was taking Chemistry and Anatomy, two heavy-duty classes. Chemistry started at 9am bright and early! To get my pep and focus going I brewed and drank a cup of coffee every morning. One fine morning on the way to a big test I realized that I forgot to drink my morning brew. As I walked to class, it was easy to feel the difference in my body: I needed some coffee to function for the test!
I knew that without the pick-me-up, I wouldn’t be my best so I walked into a convenience store on the way and grabbed a cup a’ Joe. I drank my coffee, rocked the test and went about my day. But before the test was even finished, I realized that something had gone terribly terribly wrong. The convenience store coffee had way more caffeine than my home brew! At home, I had a French Press with a mild Trader Joe’s brew that put a little zip into my day. But this convenience store cup was rocket fuel in disguise!
I survived of course. But I felt like crap all day. First I was too high and jittery, I was buzzing so hard that I couldn’t think straight. By the afternoon I burned out and felt low. It dawned on me that it was a bad plan to rely so heavily on having the right amount of coffee every day in order to have a good day. The next time I travel, how the heck am I supposed to get the right coffee fix from some unknown barista? Maybe they brew it strong, maybe it’s rocket fuel. This is a plan for disaster!
I divided the pills into halves and then halves again. Now when I needed a boost in the morning, I’d chew on 1/4 of a pill, 50 mg. exactly! And in 20 minutes I would feel it warming my blood. But better still, the pills are rather bitter. You’d think that there isn’t any positive side to that but let me explain: every time I chew on my wonderful bitter pill I know I’m going to get a rush in a few minutes. After a few weeks of that, I would start to feel better almost immediately after tasting my beloved drug. I know it’s a placebo but it works anyway!
How well does it work for me? In brief: very well!
How much does it cost? The value is staggering. For the cost of 1 Venti Caramel Macchiato I get about two months of pills! No fat, no waiting in line, and it’s always as close as my backpack!
Popping caffeine pills is not without a downside. It’s easy to become addicted. But heck, most of our society is already addicted to caffeine, I’m just grabbing this horse by the reins. We all know the symptoms of caffeine withdrawl: headache, lethargy, crabbyness, maybe even (ironically) insomnia. Getting off caffeine pills is easier than coffee. It’s easy to carefully titrate the dose over a few days or weeks. Life is much better when you have easy access and control over your dosage; I will never find myself binge drinking an espresso at a random Starbucks to quell a raging withdrawal headache!
One strange aspect of this practice is that I have become keenly aware and responsible for my energy level over the course of the day. I find myself flipping my little pill box in my pocket wondering, “Do I need to be high energy in an hour or should I wait to take my power-up?”
What about brain cancer and Franken-drugs and taking “unnatural” things on a daily basis? I’d say that the vast majority of caffeinated foodstuffs have caffeine added to them from big chemical vats just like my beloved pills.
It’s true that pills aren’t as fun as a nice steaming cup of fair trade Sumatra blend. I enjoy sipping coffee too, the pills are for enhancing productivity, not rest and relaxation.
Update September 4 2014: Caffeine pills helped me greatly to study for my prereq classes and take the GRE. I was taking 1/4 to 1 pill per day. I spent 3 months over the summer getting off the sauce. Now, two weeks into grad school I’ve only been eating tiny slivers of caffeine pills on some mornings to jumpstart my day. It’s been going very well. :-)