Caffeine intake among children and teens has risen rapidly over the last 30 years. Today, two-thirds of children and teens consume caffeine on a daily basis. Most of the caffeine consumed by teens comes from soda and energy drinks but caffeine is also found in candy, chips, gum lip balm, chocolate, pain relievers, breath fresheners and even sunflower seeds.
According to a new report, published in the February issue of Pediatrics in Review, caffeine-laden beverages can cause rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, obesity and other medical problems in teens. When teens combine energy drinks with alcohol, the potential harms can be severe according to the report’s authors.
U.S. health officials have sounded alarms about energy drinks as well. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recently reported that hospital visits related to the drinks doubled, to almost 21,000, between 2007 and 2011. About 42 percent of cases also included drug or alcohol use, the agency said.
More than 100 milligrams of coffee a day is considered unhealthy for teens. That is about the amount of caffeine in a typical cup of coffee. Sixteen ounce cans of Red Bull, Monster Energy Assault and Rockstar contain about 160 milligrams of caffeine.
When teens mix caffeine and alcohol they don’t realize that caffeine masks the side effects of alcohol (such as drowsiness and slowed breathing) that signal the body to stop drinking. Instead, the combination makes a person feel alert, creating what's known as a "wide-awake drunk" state. Caffeine makes it easier for a teen to binge drink without even knowing they are doing so. The Partnership at Drugfree.org. adds that the super sweet flavors in some energy drinks further disguise the amount of alcohol in the drink and make teens more vulnerable to overdoing it. The high sugar levels in the drinks actually help spread the alcohol through the body faster. Because teens may not realize how much alcohol they’ve consumed until it’s too late, it is important to make them aware of this potentially dangerous combination of energy drinks and alcohol.