Commentary: Teenagers Rely Outrageously on Caffeine

Sara Seaman May 28, 2014 Comments Off on Commentary: Teenagers Rely Outrageously on Caffeine
Commentary: Teenagers Rely Outrageously on Caffeine

Hi, my name is Sara Seaman, and I’m a Caffeine Addict.

Last week, I ordered a Venti (20 oz) Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks for my afternoon dose of sugar and a dash of coffee. The barista looked at my uniform and said, “When did Archer Girls start drinking so much caffeine?”

Caught off guard and confused, I asked, “What do you mean?”

“Lately it seems you all are running on coffee—I never noticed how extreme it was.”

I had never noticed either.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Journal published a report on the caffeine intake of US Children and Adolescents in November 2013. They found that “approximately 73 percent of children consumed caffeine on a given day.” It also mentions that “mean caffeine intake has not increased among children and adolescents in recent years. However, coffee and energy drinks represent a greater proportion of caffeine intake as soda intake has declined.”

Soda consumption has declined from 62 percent to 38 percent, while coffee has risen from 10 percent to 24 percent from 1999-2010.

I never imagined young children asking for or drinking coffee. All little kids want is sugar, right? However, upon self reflection, I realize that I have been drinking coffee on a regular basis since I was nine.

After doing some calculations, I found that yesterday I consumed about 400 mg of caffeine from coffee-based products alone. Because I consumed this throughout the day, I did not overdose. But with that in mind, a dose of 250-500 mg of caffeine could produce mild to moderate symptoms of a caffeine overdose, especially in people with a low caffeine tolerance.

Ali Kiley '16 drinking an iced latte.

Ali Kiley ’16 drinks an iced latte. Photographer: Sara Seaman ’16

Is my caffeine intake healthy? No. Do I get bad headaches and withdrawal symptoms without it? Yes. Will I stop drinking it? No, I most certainly will not. Understandably, I belong on the extreme side of teenage caffeine consumption.  However, there are other students that still drink coffee and energy drinks.

Perhaps the attraction to coffee is due in part to connotations of sophistication and maturity. One sophomore says, “I drink one to two cups a day to wake up in the morning and if I have to stay up for schoolwork. I have been drinking it since 5th grade (not for those reasons at the time).”

Another sophomore says, “I think that high schoolers often consume [caffeine] because of status reasons, and it’s part of our social culture.”

Many other students expressed the same basic idea— coffee is ingrained in our culture. In high school, you are supposed to be tired. If you are not tired, you are not working hard enough.

The constant expression of “I NEED coffee” is nothing new. With the amount of stress and pressure teenagers receive both in and out of school, the intake has increased along with the obsession.

Teenage coffee consumption may be a mix between exhaustion, enjoyment, and status, but should students really feel the need to rely on something that is indeed considered a drug? Opinions will differ, but the way I see it, when I am ripped out of bed in the morning, I should not already have to worry about staying awake.

Featured Image: The reliance on this captivating morning beverage plagues high school and middle school students alike. Used with permission from Pixabay.

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