Do teens really need a caffeine buzz?

I do love good coffee, and probably will always enjoy the smell of it brewing.  However, these days I only have it a couple of times a week and it’s often decaffeinated. I gave up having coffee every day because I started to get headaches when I didn’t have my caffeine fix. The annoying headache was just not worth the enjoyment of the coffee to me. But, I’m an adult. What about caffeine and teens? Of course, coffee is not the only caffeinated drink. In recent years the high-caffeine energy drink industry (e.g., Red Bull ®, Monster ®, RockStar ®) has boomed. With extreme sports heroes to tout the products, and labels that claim their products will improve concentration, performance and even emotional status, I understand why they appeal to teens.

For the first time this year, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) asked teens about their use of these drinks in the 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey. High-caffeine energy drinks debuted as the number 2 most popular drug, nestled between alcohol (number 1) and marijuana (number 3). Half of all students (grades 7-12) surveyed had consumed an energy drink in the past year, and one-fifth of students had consumed one in the seven days prior to the survey.

Since these drinks are popular among youth, this is what parents need to know:

  • Health Canada recommends the daily intake of caffeine not to exceed 2.5mg/kg/day for adolescents that are 13 years and older.
  • As an example, for a 50 kg (110 pound) adolescent, that is 125mg per day. A single can of high-caffeine energy drink has caffeine ranging between 80mg to 200 mg.
  • Although this amount of caffeine is similar to the caffeine in a cup of coffee, it is easy to quickly consume a chilled high-caffeine energy drink, and maybe even a second. This can impact both the total amount of caffeine consumed and how quickly the caffeine enters the bloodstream.
  • Check the label of the drink and do the math with the weight of your teen to see if he or she is consuming caffeine above the recommended guideline.

What’s the problem with consuming too much caffeine? Nervousness, the jitters, gastro-intestinal upset, rapid heart rate and insomnia can result. Also, as I found out with regular coffee drinking, growing accustomed to a routine of daily caffeine consumption and then withdrawing from it can cause headaches.

  • High-caffeine energy drinks are not recommended during physical activity. Even though these drinks are marketed to athletes, high-caffeine energy drinks do not provide the necessary hydration for physical activity. In fact, high-caffeine energy drinks may have the opposite effect and lead to dehydration. Water is always the best choice of drink before, during and after exercise.
  • Consuming high-caffeine energy drinks along with alcohol can be harmful. Alcohol is a depressant, and caffeine is a stimulant. The caffeine may cover the effects of the alcohol and keep a teen more alert. This can lead to a teen both misjudging how drunk he or she really is, and enable him or her to extend the time over which alcohol is consumed. Both of these can increase the total amount of alcohol entering the bloodstream, which raises the risk for alcohol poisoning.

Remember,  parents can lead by example to encourage children to make healthy beverage choices, especially when playing sports or exercising. Water is always the better choice than an energy drink!

For more information about alcohol poisoning, see the recent blog post “Teenage Wasteland”.  For more information about alcohol and caffeine, check out this fact sheet for parents by Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse entitled “A Bad Buzz”.

Share your experience:

For more information about parenting teens, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:

  • Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at haltonparents@halton.ca
  • Call the HaltonParents line for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About this guest blogger:

Michelle Schwarz is a Public Health Nurse on the Youth Health Team. Recently she was in a coffee shop and asked for used coffee grinds to put around the rhododendrons in her garden. The only buzz she got was from the bees.

This entry was posted in Parenting, Physical Health, School, school health, School-aged Children, Teens and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Do teens really need a caffeine buzz?

  1. Pingback: The Sleepy Teen Years | HaltonParents

  2. Pingback: Rethink your drink! The “good to know” about sugary drinks and kids! | HaltonParents

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