Are Your Kids Addicted?

Among caffeine users, teens are fastest growing population


Most parents wouldn’t allow their teens to use a mind-altering drug. However, many parents may not realize that by stocking the fridge with drinks high in caffeine, they’re helping their kids get buzzed.

According to a press release issued by Elsevier Health Sciences, adolescents are the fastest growing population of caffeine users. Researchers from Brescia University College conducted a study to determine why.

Caffeine is the most accessible and widely used psychoactive drug in the world. It is also the only legally and socially acceptable drug for teens to consume. Previous studies have found that about 83 percent of adolescents consume caffeinated beverages regularly, and 96 percent consume them occasionally.

To conduct the study, researchers enrolled participants at two high schools in London, Ontario, Canada. All 166 participants were between the ages of 13 and 18 and enrolled in a health class.

The researchers divided the teens into 20 focus groups and asked them to answer a series of short, open-ended questions, as well as a questionnaire.

The study found that about half of the participants drank caffeinated beverages one to six times per week. Only 4.8 percent of the teens never consumed caffeine, and 11.4 percent consumed a caffeinated beverage daily.

The teens cited many reasons for consuming caffeine, and one of the most common was that caffeine provided them with alertness and helped them study. The teens also believed that drinking caffeinated beverages made them seem more grownup. Many of the teens said they were also influenced by their parents, media advertising and social norms.

"Caffeine overconsumption and caffeine intoxication have serious health effects, even in moderate doses,” senior author Danielle S. Battram, PhD, RD, said in the press release. “With that in mind, we need to correct the misconceptions adolescents have regarding certain aspects of caffeine.”

Battram is with the Division of Food and Nutritional Sciences at Brescia University College.

Many adults may not think that caffeine consumption is a big deal. However, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consuming caffeine can pose serious health threats, including high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and dehydration. It’s also highly addictive.

The study found that most of the teens were aware that consuming caffeine could have negative health effects. Researchers believe that by further educating adolescents on the potential risks of caffeine, educators can help limit their caffeine intake.

The authors suggest creating specific education strategies to decrease caffeine intake. They believe that educators can find easy and relatable ways to teach moderation, as well as provide healthy alternatives to increasing energy, such as more sleep and a healthy diet.

"By developing more comprehensive educational strategies and enhancing policies, it may be possible to decrease caffeine use in adolescents and mitigate the potential health risks," Battram said in the press release.

The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

It was funded by Brescia University College. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.