Caffeine Craze

There has been a lot of attention in the news lately about energy drinks and their use (and sometimes abuse) by teenagers. A big reason that some teenagers will guzzle these drinks is to get a buzz. I believe that one of the recent drinks out there, “Cocaine” was just pulled off the shelves at 7‐11. I guess the idea of teenagers trying to get buzzed shouldn’t be too shocking; teenage years are very common years to begin experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol.

Much of the experimentation that goes on is relatively harmless but still concerning. Most of you parents of teens out there probably already know that you cannot stop your child or children from being exposed to substances and potentially trying them. To do this, you would practically have to lock them in the house and we all know that doing something like that probably would not go over well with them (or social services for that matter.)

As for all of you teens out there, my guess is that you feel that you have to be allowed freedom to see what is out there in the world and learn about things so that you can make your own decisions on what to do. Let’s be honest; you are getting closer to being independent and you have to start learning how to take care of yourselves. This process does seem to be enhanced when you are able to talk to you parent or parents about certain issues.

On that note, lets get back to the issue in this entry; energy drink abuse. Energy drinks are getting more and more popular with ever increasing varieties. Most have two things in common; lots of sugar and caffeine. Too much sugar can cause weight gain and dental problems, on top of shifts in energy that can be uncomfortable. It is not as dangerous, however, as caffeine, because caffeine can cause toxicity.

Most people have symptoms of caffeine intoxication when they consume 250mg or more of caffeine (the equivalent of 2‐3 cups of coffee) within a few hours. Energy drinks have varying amounts of caffeine, but generally range from 70 mg per can to 150mg. Common symptoms of caffeine intoxication include restlessness, nervousness, excitement, increased urination, gastrointestinal disturbance, muscle twitching, irregular or rapid heart beat, psychomotor agitation, periods of inexhaustibility, insomnia, flushing of the face, and a rambling flow of thought and speech. There are also case reports of violent behavior, irrational behavior, mania, and psychosis during caffeine intoxication. My guess is, with enough caffeine, one could potentially have a fatal heart problem or stroke, just like what too much speed or other “upper” could do.

I like to think that the best way to talk to teens about these risks is “active listening”. With active listening a person sits and listens closely to what a person has to say about a topic, without interrupting or interjecting his or her own opinions. It is helpful for parents to ask their kids what they know about drugs, and the positives and negatives the teen sees with them. The next step in active listening is to have kids further explain what they are saying. The thought on this is that as a teen starts to talk about their experiences and thoughts with potentially dangerous substances, they come to their own conclusions about whether or not they should indulge and to what degree they should indulge. Finally, ask to see what people are saying on sites like “MySpace” and again, see what the teenager has to say about it and have a conversation about it, avoiding judgments. Active listening tends to be a much more effective communication tool for talking to teens than traditional lecturing. (I can just picture a teenager now, sitting in his or her living room, being lectured by the parents, nodding his or her head in order to speed
up and end the lecture and thinking, “I wonder if Red Bull is on sale?”.

Remember, there will always be things that teenagers can do to scare the hell out of us adults and make us worry about them that much more. I think that one of the best things to do for this is to accept that fact and be involved and work towards good communication. Oh yeah; remind them that milk or real juice is a great beverage and that good sleep and diet are the best ways to increase energy.

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