PORTLAND, Oregon -- The caffeine craze for teens goes well beyond the soda can. The National Coffee Association says teens are the fastest growing group of coffee lovers, with 37 percent drinking it.
“I guess it just keeps me awake, which is something that’s nice,” said Lincoln High School student Vicki Niu. "I don’t drink it for the taste."
Energy drinks are another popular source of caffeine.
“I drink Monster and Red Bull because it tastes good and it’s easier to function with more caffeine,” said student Sierra Reid.
Teens can easily reach the recommended daily caffeine limit of 100 milligrams with just one or two servings, and it doesn’t have to be in liquid form; there is now caffeine gum made by Mentos.
Caffeine mints are marketed with promises like: 3 to 8 mints equal one cup of coffee. Jelly Belly Sports Beans have about as much as a half a cup of coffee in each pack.
There are even candy bars with caffeine. The Snickers “Charged” has 60 milligrams. The Butterfinger “ Buzz” wrapper says the candy bar has as much caffeine as an energy drink.
“Unfortunately teens are not aware of how much caffeine they tend to get," warned Dr. Lou Perretta of Doctors Express in Northwest Portland.
“What ends up happening is that they can only stay attentive with a certain amount of caffeine," he said. "When they get above that amount they become jittery and can’t pay attention.”
Dr. Perretta suggests talking with your teens about where they’re getting caffeine and helping them calculate how close they come to the recommended daily limit of 100 milligrams.
One energy drink can exceed or come close to the limit. A Coke or Mountain Dew takes you about halfway there.
Chocolate milk has only 5 milligrams of caffeine and a single cup of coffee can have more than a hundred.
"I go to Starbucks in the morning so I'm not sleepy and I’m ready for school," said Lincoln student Emily Kraft.
A daily cup is okay, says Dr. Perretta, but timing is key. “If they have work to do, they come down off the caffeine and they drink it again at night to stay awake and it becomes a vicious cycle."
Doctors recommend teens get 9.5 hours of sleep each night. But when they use caffeine they tend to only get five or six hours per night, which is unhealthy.