The caffeine craze

The caffeine craze

In an era where energy is currency and alertness is prized above all, teenagers are fueling a caffeine craze that transcends the morning coffee ritual.
POLL | Lilliana Peleska
Teens are tired of being tired

On a typical morning, many students walk into Mounds View with their favorite iced coffee. Others line up at Mustang Mocha for their daily fix, and all throughout the day, students carry the colorful can of an energy drink through the hallways. The popularity of caffeinated drinks at Mounds View ties into a growing, national trend. In fact, caffeine is the most commonly used drug in the world, with over 83% of adolescents drinking it on a regular basis, according to a study by the Mayo Clinic. With so many teens consuming caffeine, one might wonder why it has become so popular among high school students.

When looking at trends of caffeine consumption in teens, overall caffeine intake has not risen. However, a 2014 study by the CDC found that, from 1999 to 2010, while soda consumption decreased, teenagers’ intake of caffeine from coffee and energy drinks increased.

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The rise in coffee and energy drink consumption stands true in Mounds View. A poll of 82 Mounds View students found that 74% started drinking caffeine regularly before the age of 15. In contrast, among the 31 teachers surveyed, only 65% reported regular caffeine intake before 15.

Some students hopped on the caffeine trend because of peer pressure or social media. Influencers who show off their homemade morning coffee or Starbucks drink on YouTube or Instagram inspire fans to consume these drinks as well. “I used to watch Emma Chamberlain videos and she would drink a bunch of coffee, and then I was like, that looks kind of good. So I would make them myself,” said junior Maddie Thyren. 

More often, however, students start drinking caffeine because they want to experience an energy boost. Many students do not get the recommended amount of eight to ten hours of sleep per night. For some, it becomes easier to down an energy drink than to have a healthy sleep schedule. “I stay up really late and then I wake up in the morning, [and] I’m like, ‘[I need] coffee.’ It’s kind of my savior,” said senior Ben Hagel. 

 Because of the demands of high school, students believe they need caffeine to feel motivated enough to get out of bed and do their schoolwork later on. “If I didn’t have coffee in the morning, then I [would drink] some in the afternoon to wake me up to [do] my homework,” said senior Natalie Gimm. “I don’t know how much that worked, but it’s kind of like a placebo effect.” 

Interestingly, some students say that they drink less coffee on the weekends or during the summer. “I wouldn’t drink it on the weekend, so it was like my ‘gotta get up for school’ kind of thing,” said Gimm. In fact, some students use summer break to take a break from their caffeine addiction. “During finals […] I definitely want it a lot more […] so especially after the school is over and [I’m] done with AP tests, [… I want to] be done with [caffeine] for a while,” said Hagel.

 Despite a reliance on caffeine as an energy boost, some people also like the taste and see no reason to quit. “[If I don’t drink caffeine,] I just don’t get to enjoy the flavor,” said Thyren. “I really just drink caffeine or things like for the flavor — because I think it tastes good.” Others, like Science Teacher Jessica Espy, enjoy the emotional benefits of caffeine. “[Coffee] kind of brings [me] joy and happiness and warm feelings,” she said. 

These happy feelings also come from caffeine’s social aspect. Coffee shops are very common places for students to study together, socialize with friends and share their favorite drinks. In the case of Gimm, coffee allowed her to better connect with her sister.  “[She was] like, we should have a cup of coffee sometime,” said Gimm. “So it was […] a way to interact with people.” 

There are definitely a lot more students drinking coffee than I remember [in] my high school.

— Jessica Espy, science teacher

In the end, whether caffeine is used to socialize or boost teens’ energy, it seems as though its popularity is only growing. “There are definitely a lot more students drinking coffee than I remember [in] my high school,” said Espy. The benefits of caffeine continue to motivate students to consume these beverages.

POLL | Lilliana Peleska
Students wait in line to get a drink at Mustang Mocha during ReFLECT.
Effects on body and brain

Millions of people drink caffeine every day, but most are not aware of the lesser-known impacts caffeine can have on your body.

Caffeine is a stimulant and a psychoactive drug, meaning that it affects the brain directly. When caffeine enters the body, it prevents adenosine — a hormone that promotes sleepiness and interferes with dopamine release — from binding to its receptor and instead takes over. This explains why some people feel more alert or have a better mood after consuming caffeine.  

When consumed in moderation, caffeine can improve alertness, mood, and focus, and even decrease the risk of certain chronic diseases. However, excessive caffeine causes negative side effects, especially for adolescents. “According to the FDA, healthy adults may be able to tolerate up to 400 mg of caffeine a day [4-5 cups of coffee]. [… Likewise,] the FDA states that 1,200 mg of caffeine can cause toxicity, which can result in heart arrhythmias and seizures. Some energy drinks/shots have close to 300 mg of caffeine,” said Heidi Shah, health teacher.

However, because caffeine directly affects the brain, students should be wary about overconsumption. “Teens should avoid all substances that change the brain’s natural chemistry. Any time you introduce a stimulant to the central nervous system, it temporarily alters homeostasis, [the body’s tendency to return to stable, internal conditions]” said Shah. “[The] general advice for teens is to minimize or exclude caffeine from their diet.” The FDA recommends teens consume no more than 100 mg of caffeine per day.

I don’t have any caffeine before a test […] because it’ll make me so anxious that I won’t be able to do my best.

— Amaris Tu, '25

The negative effects of caffeine tend to appear when daily consumption exceeds 400mg of caffeine. Immediate effects include rapid heartbeat and anxiety. “A big part of why I don’t have any caffeine before a test, no matter how tired, is because it’ll make me so anxious that I won’t be able to do my best,” said junior Amaris Tu. 

In addition, researchers have found that too much caffeine intake for teens can cause temporary health problems like nausea, irritability, nervousness and sleep problems, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Because of the dopamine release that results from caffeine intake, caffeine can be highly addictive, according to the National Institute of Health. For regular caffeine users, going without caffeine can cause painful withdrawal symptoms. “[By] one o’clock, two o’clock, I have the worst migraine of my life,” said Jessica Espy, science teacher, who usually drinks at least one cup of coffee every day. “I get a big headache.” Besides headaches, caffeine withdrawal symptoms can include agitation, anxiety, lowered awareness and a general sense of discomfort.

However, teenagers’ young brains are more easily manipulated, which not only results in students becoming addicted faster but also allows them to tolerate withdrawal with fewer long-term effects. “The teen brain is still growing, which means it’s more vulnerable to change when exposed to new substances like caffeine. However, the teen brain is also very resilient, which means it can bounce back quickly to homeostasis when the chemical is removed,” said Shah. 

Caffeine is everywhere, from coffee shops to sports energy drinks, and completely cutting it from one’s diet can be difficult. Nonetheless, students should consider reducing their intake because caffeine can have many negative consequences when overconsumed. 

Students wait in line to get a drink at Mustang Mocha during ReFLECT. (Isabel Li)
Charged controversy

Recently, there has been considerable controversy surrounding caffeinated beverage companies. One of the primary concerns contributing to the controversy is the use of misleading and poorly-targeted marketing techniques. 

Prime, jointly created by internet celebrities and former boxing rivals KSI and Logan Paul, has been under fire for its contentious advertising strategies since it was established in January 2022. A 12-ounce can of Prime Energy — an energy drink containing caffeine, water, coconut water and electrolytes — has a caffeine content of 200 mg, which is six times the amount of caffeine in a can of Coca-Cola and almost three times that in an eight-ounce can of RedBull. 

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, pediatricians recommend limiting caffeine intake to 100 mg a day for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 and zero mg for anyone under 12.  Large amounts of caffeine are proven to hinder development and growth in young adolescents and children. As a result, Prime Energy’s high caffeine content and widespread advertising have faced criticism. 

Because 60% of people who consume Logan Paul and KSI’s content on social media are under 24, young people are more likely to be exposed to Prime Energy. The colorful packaging of Prime’s drinks, with bright green, blue, red and pink cans, as well as the sweet flavors, further entice minors to consume these energy drinks. The FDA has criticized how this drink has targeted young teens, a group younger than the target audience of any other energy drink company. However, the founders argue that they have always marketed their product strictly toward consumers over the age of 18, as evidenced by the product information on their website. 

Misleading advertising is one significant issue. Panera Bread recently faced backlash and a lawsuit after Sarah Katz, a 21-year-old woman, drank their “Charged Lemonade” and went into cardiac arrest, eventually dying in the hospital. Katz had long QT syndrome — a disorder that causes sudden fast heartbeats — and had always managed her symptoms by limiting caffeine intake and taking medication, according to CNN. Her family later argued that Panera should have been clearer with disclosing certain ingredients, such as the guarana extract, a stimulant. They also stated that the product should have been more clearly labeled as an energy drink, especially with its caffeine content of around 390 mg for a large size. 

As caffeine has become more mainstream and accessible, some parents and pediatricians have suggested banning or regulating the sale of energy drinks to minors. Earlier this year, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer issued a request to the FDA to review the caffeine content in Prime Energy drinks in hopes of making its dangerous effects more clear. While some counties, such as Suffolk County, NY, require customers to be over the age of 18 to purchase caffeinated powder, there is currently no federal law placing an age limit on caffeinated beverage sales. 

Ultimately, the controversy surrounding caffeinated drink companies shows the need for clearer marketing and labeling, and the incidents from Prime Energy and Panera Bread call for increased regulation in the sale of such products to minors.

Did you know? — combatting caffeine addiction
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