For many adults, caffeine usage is a necessity. Effectively used, caffeine can provide a much-needed boost to help improve memory performance, alertness, and aerobic conditions – even for teens. But overreliance can quickly morph into dependence for adults and teenagers. Overconsumption of caffeine by teenagers has a magnified effect on their body and brain, causing headaches, shakiness, rapid heartbeat, dehydration, upset stomach, sleep deprivation, and in some cases, much worse.

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For teens who may be taking particular medicines, or those who don’t consume sugar on a regular basis, caffeine can be particularly dangerous. One of the most publicized caffeine-related deaths in recent years involved a 16-year old male teenager from South Carolina. According to the county coroner, the teen suffered a caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia, stemming from an abnormal heart rhythm.

In the course of just over three hours, this healthy 16-year old consumed a cafe latte, a large diet Mountain Dew, and an energy drink. He collapsed at school in a classroom at Spring Hill High School on April 26, 2017, and died just a few hours later.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children and adolescents avoid energy drinks altogether, but there isn’t a set standard for children as far as caffeine consumption is concerned. Adults have no issues consuming amounts of upwards to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, which translates to around four cups of coffee or thirteen cans of cola! However, the equivalent of just a few cups of coffee or cans of soda can interrupt normal behavior and the state of mind of teenagers.

To actually reach a “lethal” dose of caffeine, you would have to choke down somewhere from 50 to 100 cups of coffee. But the most sugar and caffeine isn’t found in a can of Coke or café latte, it’s found in energy drinks. The real and more present danger to teens is how caffeine can react with other ingredients found in an energy drink and how it can react inside of their system.

Marketing caffeine to teens

Energy drinks can pose problems for teenagers. The energy drink market is projected to be worth over $60 billion by 2021. Tobacco-like regulations are also being widely considered to stop the marketing of energy drinks to children and teenagers. Bear in mind that this industry didn’t even exist 20 years ago. The incentive to market to a young demographic is enormous.

From 2005 to 2011, energy drink-related emergency-room visits rose from 1,494 to 20,783. Energy drinks like Monster Energy, Red Bull, Rockstar, or NOS contain much more caffeine than an average cup of coffee. Nearly all energy drinks contain other additives like guarana and taurine, which are uncommon in other types of drinks or foods and tend to intensify the already sizable portions of caffeine in energy drinks.

Problems arise quickly when energy drinks are mixed with the wrong kinds of medication or alcohol. A clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that energy drinks are never appropriate for children or adolescents. In fact, all caffeine-containing beverages should be avoided. While there’s debate about whether or not the government should step in and reduce the amount of caffeine allowed in energy drinks, we can take steps to educate teens about the risks of abuse.

Side effects of too much caffeine in kids and teens

Small amounts of caffeine won’t harm teens. Consistent use and over-consumption can set off noticeable side effects that should serve as a red flag for parents.

Side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Shakiness
  • Sleep disorders
  • Irritability
  • Upset stomach
  • Rapid heart rate
  • A headache
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dehydration


Natural sugars found in fruit, along with the appropriate amounts of caffeine can sharpen mental focus. But too much of the drug in the hands of an adolescent can quickly get out of hand.

Teenage caffeine consumption

Teens have direct access to drinks packed with caffeine and it’s difficult for parents and schools to completely regulate caffeine. Consuming regular amounts of soda can have other negative effects like weight gain among teens. When teens consume soda or sports water instead of juice or milk, they miss out on dozens of essential vitamins and minerals during a time in their lives when they need nutrients to grow and develop. Schools and workplaces have been proactive and have taken action by removing soda vending machines.

Where to go from here

While it’s unlikely that energy drink sales will slow down anytime soon, we can take time to educate our teens about the real and present dangers from the regular consumption and overconsumption of energy drinks. Accurate warning labels and limits to caffeine could be put into place by local and federal governments. However, the quickest way to make an impact on youth is to explain the dangers of irresponsible consumption. Whether your teen is a gamer or an athlete, there’s no reason for children and teens under 17 to consume energy drinks.

There are alternatives to caffeine-packed drinks, however. Becoming more productive at school or at work could boil down to taking a ten-minute break to get exercise. Substituting fruits that naturally contain sugar can serve as effective alternatives to soda or coffee drinks. The naturally occurring sugar and vitamins in apples, for example, can help provide a pick-me-up. Staying hydrated can boost your metabolism, flush out toxins, and help you eat less. Engage with your teens and their teachers about ways they can stay energized throughout the day to avoid the temptation to tap into highly caffeinated beverages.

Contact us about counseling for troubled youth

Call us at 1-877-300-9101 to schedule an appointment or request more information from the dropdown below.