Andrina Aepli suggests that children and adolescents are losing sleep because of increased caffeine intake in October 2015’s Brain Sciences Journal. In her study, “Altered Sleep Behavior and Deep Sleep,” Aepli discusses how caffeine leads to a decrease in sleep and a change in young adults’ sleep patterns. According to Aepli, “Caffeine is the most commonly ingested psychoactive drug worldwide with increasing consumption rates among young individuals” (5441). Where can caffeine be found? Many foods and beverages contain caffeine, not just coffee or energy drinks. Aepli wrote that, “Numerous different foods and beverages contain the alkaloid caffeine, including coffee, tea, cola, ice tea, chocolate and energy drinks…” (5441). Adolescents’ use of caffeine has increased, and not without side-effects. Adolescents consume many forms of caffeine, making it even easier for them to become addicted. Margaret Paccione-Dyszlewski says in “Energy drinks for children and adolescents: Cage the beast,” from the Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter journal, that the caffeine in energy drinks stimulates the central nervous and cardiovascular systems (8). Energy drinks and shots contain excessive levels of caffeine, and are dangerous to adolescents. Caffeine negatively affects the adolescent body by leading to a caffeine addiction, mental health problems, and the formation of risky behavior.

On the other side of the caffeine argument, caffeine makes teenagers feel more alert and relieves stress,just like it does in adults.“Caffeine consumption and self-assessed stress, anxiety, and depression in secondary school children” by Gareth Richards and Andrew Smith, in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, shows the relationship between caffeine and stress, depression, and anxiety faced by adolescents. According to Richards and Smith, there are some positive effects of caffeine, including increased mood, mental alertness, and quicker processing of information (1236). Many college students drink caffeine-filled drinks for stress management.

Students are under a lot of pressure to succeed, and some do whatever it takes to do so. Adolescents’ caffeine consumption lowers their stress and anxiety.

A study done by Ricos et al. in 2013 concluded that 49% of the Puerto Rican students said caffeinated drinks are helpful for relieving their academic stress. In 2011, Pettit and DeBarr founda positive correlation between energy drinks and college students’ stress. Various studies also conclude that small doses of caffeine can lessen anxiety and improve mood. Somecaffeine users lower theirrisk of depression (Richards and Smith 1237). Modern-day students stay up late studying under the stress of deadlines. Adolescents’ tiredness may lead them to use caffeine to stay awake.

Barbara M. Thomson compares how adults and adolescents respond to caffeine intake in her study from New Zealand in “Energy drink consumption and impact on caffeine risk,” in Food Additives & Contaminants. Part A: Chemistry, Analysis, Control, Exposure & Risk Assessment. According to the study, teenagers surpass the “adverse effect level”, when they consume both caffeinated foods and energy drinks. According to Thomson et. al,

Caffeine is consumed widely for its stimulatory effects of enhancing wakefulness, mood, physical endurance and mental concentration, and decreasing the sensation of fatigue… An EFSA scientific panel concluded there was sufficient evidence to establish a causal relationship between caffeine and an increase in endurance performance, endurance capacity, alertness and attention, and a reduction in the perceived exertion/effort during exercise. (1476)

Caffeine’s short-term energy boost appeals to adolescents. Adolescents who feel pressed for time can increase their productivity by consuming caffeine. Adolescents do not see the health implications of eachcup of coffee.

What are the most popular caffeinated beverages for teenagers? Coffee comprises about 75% of caffeine consumed by teenagers ages of 15 to 19. Tea and soda comprise the remaining 25% (Thomson 1479). The teenagers surveyed prefer coffee, which has the most caffeine of these choices. Adolescents may easily become addicted to caffeine. Manoi Kumar Sharma,  a clinical psychologist in India, voiced her concern over India’s caffeine-addicted adolescents in “Pattern of Caffeine Use among Teenagers in Bangalore, India: An Exploration,” published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine. C. Poornima wrote a public letter to the to Dr. Sharma using statistics to describe teenagers addicted to caffeine.

The caffeine-dependent teens experienced negative symptoms, including withdrawal, when caffeine was removed from their diets.  

Poornima references a survey conducted, in which 106 teenagers ages 16-18 were asked about their caffeine usage (Poornima and Sharma 1). According to Poornima’s letter to Sharma, “54.5% [of participants] expressed a strong desire to consume caffeinated products… 15.1% experienced the loss of control in relation to use of caffeinated products… 63.3% expressed a desire to continue its usages despite having awareness about negative consequences.. ”(Poornima and Sharma 1). These statistics demonstrate how caffeine affects adolescents’ lives. Many of the caffeine-consuming adolescents claimed that even though they knew about caffeine’s side effects, they keep taking it. Poornima and Sharma also wrote that, “23.8% teenagers had caffeine dependence. The dependent teenager experienced withdrawal symptoms such as feeling drowsy/tired, fatigued, or sluggish/slowed down (83.3%), and headaches (75%)” (Poornima and Sharma 2). This shows that teenagers are suffering from their caffeine dependencies.

Richards and Smith included many researchers’ findings to show the negative effects of caffeine. Gilliland and Andress’ 1981 study shows higher levels of anxiety in caffeine users. According to Ogawa and Ueki’s 2003 case report, high caffeine intake can lead to mania. Kaplan and et al.’s 1997 study concluded  that 500 mg of caffeine can lead to irritability. ‘Caffein-ism’ can be induced from large doses of caffeine (Richards and Smith 1237). [This condition is characterized by] “Symptoms include anxiety, nervousness, restlessness, insomnia, excitement, psychomotor agitation, dysphoria, and a rambling flow of thoughts and speech, which have been considered to mimic a clinical picture known as ‘mixed mood state’” (Richards and Smith 1237). Richards and Smith’s studies demonstrated that caffeine intake among secondary school children can lead to stress, depression, and anxiety (1237). These mental health concerns are a serious side-effect of caffeine.

Caffeine makes adolescents believe that they need less sleep. Adolescent consumption of caffeine disturbs sleep patterns. Aepli says that, “Similar to adults, high caffeine intake in adolescents is associated with an increase of reported sleep difficulties, sleep disturbances, and morning tiredness” (5442). This shows that caffeine drastically impacts adolescents’ sleep. Aepli’s study concluded that adolescents’ caffeine consumption can lead to reduced deep sleep time and later bedtimes (5441-5442). According to Aepli, “….Caffeine consumers do not seem to compensate for reduced time in bed with increased sleep duration at weekends… Thus, sleep need might generally be reduced in caffeine consuming children and adolescents” (5450). Teenagers who consume energy drinks may also “crash” and become tired during the day. Richards and Smith write that, “James et al. (2011) observed a strong inverse relationship between caffeine intake and academic attainment, 32% of which was explained by mediating effects of daytime sleepiness and other licit substance use” (1237). Caffeine users hope to stay awake, not experience “daytime sleepiness”. Caffeine makes people more tired, instead of giving them the boost they seek.

Paccione-Dyslewski includes a survey from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Association to state the number of energy drink-related hospital visits have taken place recently. Caffeine consumption has become a serious problem, and can lead to hospitalization. “According to a Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) survey of U.S. hospitals, the estimated number of emergency room visits involving energy drinks doubled from 10,000 in 2007 to more than 20,000 in 2011. Most of these cases involved teenagers or young adults” (Paccione-Dyszlewski 8). This energy drink-related hospitalization shows that teenagers are not educated about the dangers of caffeine. Schools need to teach teenagers about these dangers in order to prevent further incidents from happening. According to Paccione-Dyszlewski, “The SAMHSA report calls energy drink consumption a ‘rising public health problem’ that can cause insomnia, hypertension, dehydration, headache, cardiac arrhythmia, and seizures severe enough to require emergency care.” Caffeine affects teenagers’ bodies in frightening ways. Adolescents cannot handle the amount of caffeine they consume.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, adults can handle between 100 and 200 milligrams of caffeine a day. Energy drinks typically have 80 to 500 milligrams of caffeine in them (Paccione-Dyszlewski 8). If adults cannot handle the amount of caffeine in energy drinks, then how can adolescents? They cannot. Adolescents who use caffeine over long periods of time can develop caffeine toxicity. This condition causes lifelong damage to children’s and adolescents’ cardiovascular and nervous systems (Paccione-Dyszlewski 8). Young adults’ health can be changed forever due to their over-consumption of caffeine.

There were 130 caffeine-related phone calls made to the New Zealand Poisons Centre, in an 8-year period (2005 to 2013). About 38 of these calls were related to energy drinks or shots. Seven of the nine coffee incidents involved children under three years old. 63 out of the 130 incidents were due to tablets or capsules (Thomson et. al 1481). There was a 14-year-old who drank 600 ml of an energy drink, in addition to 14 caffeine capsules (Thomson et. al 1482). Adolescents do not understand that they drink unsafe levels of caffeine. Adolescents overload their bodies with caffeine, and face the negative consequences.

Formulated energy drinks and energy shots are hazardous, and have 145-320 mg of caffeine in them. “Dietary supplement” energy shots with over 145 mg of caffeine have a stated health advisory to children (Thomson et. al 1476). Adolescents’ bodies cannot handle the large amounts of caffeine present in energy-products. Teenagers are one of the groups in danger of exceeding the caffeine “adverse effect level” (AEL), from combining energy drinks with caffeine-filled foods (Thomson et al. 1482). Even caffeine not found in energy drinks can be too much for adolescents’ bodies. Caffeine affects people of all ages, especially teenagers and adolescents. According to Thomson et. al, “…Approximately 26% of all New Zealand adults over 15 years, 7% of teenagers (15– 19 years), 15% of young males (19–24 years)… may be at risk of adverse effects from baseline dietary caffeine exposure, excluding energy drinks, on any one day” (1482).  Caffeine presents a danger many adolescents do not consider.

Many teenagers consume caffeine. According to Richards and Smith, 30-50% of teenagers consume energy drinks (1236). Teenagers do not realize that energy drink-usage and behavior issues are linked. There is a connection between energy drinks and teens who drink alcohol, smoke, fight, and use drugs (1236-1237). Richards and Smith also mentioned a 2010 study reported by Kristjánsson et al. According to this study, conduct disorder and violent behavior are linked to caffeine intake (Richards and Smith 1237).

Caffeine intake affects teenagers’ behaviors, not just their alertness levels.

Caffeine can also lead to risky and impulsive actions in teenagers. According to Temple et. al, “Consumption of caffeinated beverages, such as energy drinks and soda, is positively associated with risk taking, impulsivity, and sensation seeking among adolescents and young adults…” (561). Temple et. al conducted an experiment using a computerized BART test, which measures children’s risk-taking tendencies. The adolescents taking the test decided whether to either inflate a balloon or keep the earned money before a balloon explosion (563). “The highest caffeine users had high baseline total balloon explosions that were significantly reduced after 2 mg/kg of caffeine. This is consistent with the findings … suggesting that individuals who are high caffeine consumers are more likely to engage in risky behavior” (Temple et. al 566). This shows that caffeine affects the decisions adolescents make.

Temple et. al also distributed a questionnaire to evaluate adolescents’ risky activities participation. According to the data, there was “a strong correlation between average daily caffeine consumption and composite risk taking scores, with higher caffeine consumption associated with greater reports of risk taking….” (Temple et. al 566). Temple et. al’s data concluded that caffeine consumption can lead to adolescents’ risk taking. Adolescents change the way they act due to the amount of caffeine they consume. Caffeine has a bigger hold on them than they could possibly imagine.

Many modern-day adolescents rely on caffeine to cope with the stress of being a student in today’s world. Due to the increasing pressure imposed on students, teenagers develop a caffeine habit. Unbeknownst to many adolescents, this habit makes them addicted to caffeine, mentally unstable, tired, and violent. Why? Adolescents do not know about these dangers. They have not been educated about these bodily-harming side effects. Schools and communities need to educate today’s youth about these risks. Adults must prevent future energy drink and caffeine-related hospital disasters. Parents, teachers, and other adult role-models can warn adolescents about the risks of caffeine. Adolescents’ caffeine consumption can be stopped, but adolescents cannot do it by themselves. Teenagers and children are not aware of the risks they take by consuming caffeine. This adolescent caffeine problem can be stopped, with the support of adult role models.

Author Bio

Rebecca is a senior at Gordon this year and is majoring in English with a minor in French. She is interested in both academic and creative genres of writing and works as a Writing Tutor in Gordon’s Writing Center. She’s currently working as a remote intern at Hendrickson Publishing Group in Peabody as well. Her favorite genres of writing are creative nonfiction and poetry, and she enjoys working on her writing in her free time. She also enjoys taking walks, baking, and reading. She has stories published in the Vox Populi and the Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle.