It can be easy to forget that caffeine is a drug. It is specifically a stimulant. Just like other more dangerous stimulants — methamphetamine, cocaine, amphetamine, nicotine — it can be highly addictive.
That caffeine jolt is why some people can’t start their day without that first cup of coffee. They need the caffeine to help “get them going.”
People who try to eliminate caffeine from their routine can find themselves going through withdrawal. Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. Now, imagine that in your teen.
Marketing caffeinated sodas to adolescents and teens is common practice. Today there are so many more caffeinated options, including sugary coffees and energy drinks. Those may be fine to enjoy occasionally, but too much of a good thing is still too much.
What Is the Right Amount?
Numerous factors go into determining the “right” amount of caffeine to consume. Weight and other health conditions are the biggest determinants. Up to 400 milligrams a day — or four cups of brewed coffee — is safe for most healthy adults.
Adolescents aged 12 to 18 should not have more than 100 mg of caffeine a day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That’s a cup of coffee or two to three cans of soda. More than that and you risk:
Let’s Talk About Energy Drinks
These have become the go-to source of energy for busy students who are trying to stay on top of their studies while juggling so many different activities. They are branded with names like Amp, Bang, Monster, Venom, and Rockstar.
Some are sold as drinks with 70 to 240 mg of caffeine, and there are the “energy shots,” which can have 113 to 200 mg of caffeine. The drinks can also contain ingredients like sugars taurine, and guarana, which is another source of caffeine.
They can help increase alertness, energy, and attention. But the potential effects on blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing can be dangerous.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, energy drink-related emergency room visits doubled from 2007 to 2011. In 2011, 1 in 10 resulted in hospitalization. That year, 42% of all energy drink-related emergency room visits involved combining energy drinks with alcohol or drugs.
Nearly 1,500 kids aged 12 to 17 took a trip to the ER for an energy drink-related emergency in 2011. The dangers include:
- Heart complications
The American Academy of Pediatrics says children and teens should avoid energy drinks entirely.
Other Caffeine Sources
Sodas, coffee, tea, and energy drinks are the big sources of caffeine. But it also shows up in other foods and even some personal-care products. They include:
- Coffee-flavored foods
- Snack foods, like energy bars
- Lip balms
- Skincare products like some eye creams, scrubs, and moisturizers
- Weight-loss supplements
The best source of energy for adolescents and teens is sleep. Getting enough sleep is vital for the healthy development of young minds and bodies. Consuming caffeine only inhibits getting enough sleep.
Having a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can help maintain a steady stream of energy without the peaks and crashes that come from consuming too much caffeine.
Having a relationship with your AltaMed pediatrician is a good first step in raising a healthy and energetic child. We also have a host of wellness programs to get the entire family on a path to physical fitness and healthy food choices.
Call AltaMed at (877) 462-2582 to get stared with us today.