Indiana University Bloomington

Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC)

Caffeine: An Accepted Drug of Choice for Adolescents

With few exceptions, most American teens have used the legal stimulant Caffeine. Red Bull®, Jolt®, and Monster® are just a few examples of the over 250 highly caffeinated drinks on the market that adolescents are drinking regularly every day. The most commonly ingested psychoactive substance in the world, caffeine is perceived as a substance with little harm. Despite adverse effects, daily caffeine use is rarely seen as drug abuse. Caffeine use has little to no stigma within society. For this reason and many others, adolescents are likely candidates for caffeine dependence; a trend that is quickly growing.

When consumed with alcohol, highly caffeinated drinks exacerbate the high risk behaviors of young people. Adolescents that are especially at risk for the adverse effects from caffeine abuse are those with depression.

Youth suffering from depression often complain of lack of energy and chronic tiredness. These symptoms lead to caffeine self-medication. Following consumption, a feeling of increased alertness is followed by a period of low energy, which is often perceived as worse than the original state of heightened depressive symptoms. Caffeine use is also associated with increased feelings of anxiety for youth. The highs and lows of caffeine are a perpetual cycle that is difficult to break, especially when used for the purpose of self-medication.

Currently the FDA has no limit on the amount of caffeine that can be placed in food and drinks. This omission is seemingly a message of safety and acceptance. But, be wary of what effects these seemingly fun and harmless drinks may be causing for your youth.

Be cautious in consuming large amounts of caffeine each day. If you are considering reducing your caffeine intake, remember that just like with any other drug, withdrawal symptoms are common. When depression or anxiety is a regular concern, consider limiting caffeine and discussing your emotional well-being with your family physician or a counselor.

By Mallori Desalle,   9/23/2008