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High fidelity: The teenage crush on caffeinated drinks is a growing problem

Media Academy

Caffeinated drinks have displaced tobacco and other substances as a drug of choice for many teenagers. But their impact on health is not fully understood, write Kyle Ura and Arnav Prabhu.

In the current day and age, teenagers are moving between fads every other day.

As young people age, they have a tendency to drop these habits, yet a concurrent practice (which has been seen for years in Australian high schoolers) is the large amount of caffeinated beverage consumption on a daily basis.

The result of this largely overlooked drug consumption?

Oblivious teenagers are being bombarded by the hidden effects of caffeinated drinks due to a combination of the inability to cope with the addiction and increasing demands of school and work.

The term caffeinated drink encompasses energy drinks, soft drinks and coffee, and their sales are at a consistent rise.

Many store chains stocking energy drinks in Australia purposely build across schools or within walking distance to take advantage of students dependency.

According to research published by BioMedCentral, energy drinks currently have a consistent annual growth rate of 170 per cent. This proves that the popularity of caffeine is constantly increasing yet students are not aware of the potential long-term complications that may arise.

Data from a local McDonalds outlet shows that, on average, 300 caffeinated drinks are sold every Saturday.

Estimates of the largest consumers of caffeinated drinks show that the 13-19 age group topple that of the 21-30, 6-12, 30-40 and 40 plus age groups respectively.

Despite the common knowledge that caffeinated drink consumption among teenagers has increased within the last 5 years, risky levels of alcohol and tobacco product consumption have declined due to other legal and easily accessible alternatives like caffeine and the recent rise in demand for vaping.

“I usually have three Rockstars (a highly caffeinated soft drink)n a day. Ironically, I feel more tired than ever and the energy drinks have replaced my food” says “Charlie”, a student at Helensvale State High School.

“Over the last two months I’ve lost 10 kilos because I only eat 1 meal a day, yet don’t feel hungry at all. If I stopped the energy drinks though I’d just feel more tired than I already am.”

While most addictions are proven to have long-term effects, Charlie sees his daily lifestyle being impacted immediately.

While some teens believe they cannot be addicted to consumption at such a young age, the composition of soft drinks can make them feel abnormal or tired if they were to quit, and this is the grip that these brands have on youth.

“Despite the health risks to children, our WA-based research shows that many children and parents are largely unaware of the potential impacts of energy drinks” said Dr Gina Trapp, Head of Food and Nutrition Research at the Telethon Kids Institute.

Roughly eight per cent of students in Australia are reported to drink at least one energy drink weekly, with this number only growing as popularity increases.

More than 55 per cent of adolescents who consumed energy drinks reported some form of adverse event after consumption, including stomach upset, heart palpitations, headache etc.

These immediate affects grow exponentially over time and serious complications of consumption over time include cerebrovascular accidents (strokes) and many heart complications because of the strain from stimulation.

As mentioned by Dr Trapp, the rise in unhealthy habits such as caffeine addiction are often a result of lack of education on their repercussions.

Parents must make an effort to mitigate these addictions from occurring in the first place.

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