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Caffeine and Teenagers: What's the Limit?

Updated on May 25, 2013

Caffeine can be found in many foods

Caffeinated potato chips are some of the many foods these days aimed at young men.
Caffeinated potato chips are some of the many foods these days aimed at young men. | Source

Coffee shops are a great study location, but...

From grocery stores, book stores, nail salons, pretty much everything is a coffee shop these days.
From grocery stores, book stores, nail salons, pretty much everything is a coffee shop these days. | Source

It's easy to keep track

Teen Caffeine Monitor app, available for download for all major smartphones and tablets.
Teen Caffeine Monitor app, available for download for all major smartphones and tablets. | Source

Where I'm Coming From:

To preface this article, let me say that I love caffeine. Coffee, tea, energy drinks, I really do enjoy them.

I grew up as a hardcore/heavy metal drummer, so I am quite accustomed to "Megatour -- sponsored by Monster Energy Drinks", "Musicapalooza - sponsored by Pepsi", and the various corporate sponsorships of of youth events (non-alcohol related for the <21 crowd).

As a youth, I would drink at least 2 energy drinks per day, as well coffee and diet pop. One before school, one before band practice, one before soccer practice, etc...

Push To Excel

The United States is not in its best shape right now. We have to figure out ways to get our teenagers in school to first of all attend school (truancy). Next, they have to study math, science, business, language and technology longer and longer to "keep up with the rest of the world". We want them with an interest in sports to become Lebron James, Peyton Manning, or Lionel Messi or basically die trying. They have to get great grades AND have an amazing portfolio of non-profit or extracurricular activities at the same time.

Caffeine really does bring mental focus, heightened energy and alertness, and the energy drinks sold today are stocked full of vitamins and other health boosters to help your body extend itself and overcome physical stamina issues.

Social Context

Coffee shops are a wonderful place to meet and be social for suburban and urban students. There are tables for groups to meet and study, plenty of wifi, and often longer hours than a library or community center or anywhere else safe for a kid to go. In Chicago, there are a few 24 hour coffee shops which cater to students staying up writing papers or studying for exams, with plenty of delicious lattes, while any type of student center often closes early each night.

Marketed at Teenagers

It is pretty easy to figure out that energy drinks and other caffeinated beverages are marketed at boys under the age of 21. I do not need to tell you which demographic "Amp'd", "Monster Assault", "Cocaine energy drink" are targeting.

However, caffeine appears in many other health foods and drinks we consume each day. Many multi-vitamins, diet supplements and pills use caffeine as their dieting agent. Green tea pills, ice cream, lattes, and so forth contain caffeine. Many health bars such as Clif Cool Mint Chocolate contain good amounts of caffeine, as well health waters such as Vitamin Water Drive. Potato chips, shampoo, hand soap, and many other specialty forms of caffeine consumption are making their way into mainstream society now.

Should we care?

In our race to do it all, or push our kids to be their best by encouraging caffeine consumption, we may be causing a number of medical conditions to become manifest in our children as well, such as:

  • adhd
  • sleeplessness/restlessness/anxiety
  • medical daily addiction to caffeine

According to NPR and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, 100 milligrams a day of caffeine is all a person under 18 needs to become addicted and become formed by the drug.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/02/14/133748993/energy-drinks-even-without-alcohol-may-pose-risks-for-youngsters

http://www.cspinet.org/

In addition, mixing caffeine with alcohol has produced more and more preventable deaths, with the New York Times link attached as an example.

Conclusion: inconclusive

I haven't made up my mind on this one, but it is interesting for me to research, measure, write about, and maybe get some informed opinions from someone out there?

I sure am enjoying this caffeinated doughnut and Trenta size iced coffee this morning as the calendar turns to June while I write this. Can't wait to get out the frozen Dr. Pepper popsicles and make a go of it!

Teen Caffeine Monitor

Parents' Caffeine Poll

Parents, how many times per day do your children consume caffeine?

See results

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    • jlongrc profile image

      Jacob Long 4 years ago from Memphis, TN

      I'd say the health risks are pretty minimal, other than the dependence you outlined. If you use caffeine daily, especially more than once daily, you're going to hate your life if you take a few days off. After 2-3 days off of caffeine, you'll be all better though for the most part.

      I use it often, but cycle it. I'll ocassionally just abstain from use for 2-4 weeks, then use it as needed for specific tasks, then start using it daily...rinse and repeat.

    • biolithic profile image
      Author

      Andy 4 years ago from Chicago

      Thanks for the comment, jlongrc. This hub is mainly focused on caffeine effects on those 18 and younger...ie, do you think it will be more regulated by the FDA like "alcohol to minors", do you think it has any correlation between rising problems like adhd, special needs, autism, etc? No hard reports either way.

      I use caffeine everyday to "get up" for work I don't want to do, green tea + caffeine for joint benefits (knees - playing the double bass drums), because I like coffee in the cold, etc but adults have fully formed bodies that can handle it. I haven't tried the cyclical patterns you described though!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Controlling Caffeine consumption by young children is really a tough job for parents nowadays, since everything is so easily available and addictive too.

      Thanks for sharing this useful and informative hub!

    • biolithic profile image
      Author

      Andy 4 years ago from Chicago

      Yes, ChitrangadaSharan. We want our children to be the best, to have a better future, to eat and drink "health" products, and we too are working or studying a lot and are not near them. So we say, "Go to Starbucks and write your report for school", "Drink an energy drink and work more", "Get a better image by taking fat-burning pills", "Don't bother me, drink this pop and play some games", "on sale, Big Gulp 32-44oz Mountain Dew for 69cents" but the outcome of mass caffeine on young society has yet to be determined.

    • Metta profile image

      Metta 3 years ago from Los angeles

      Seems a definite cause for concern. Thanks for the article.

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