Adolescent Addiction: Is Caffeine Addiction More Prominent Than We Think?

By: Sophia Stunkard

Caffeine and teenagers, the most important high school relationship of them all. As you walk through the halls of Jenks High School you are more than likely to see an array of Red Bulls, Starbucks coffees, and caffeine of all sorts pumping through the veins of your peers. This presents a question – why are us teenagers so attracted to the buzz caffeine has to offer us and why is today’s society filled with caffeine addicted adolescents?

In today’s day and age, many teenagers thrive for the boost given to them by caffeine, but for past generations it didn’t use to be that way. When I began regularly having a shot of espresso every morning, I would always get the spiel from my dad that goes, 

“You’re drinking coffee in high school? I didn’t have my first cup of joe until… college!” 

Although I was bothered by my dad’s concerns, it reminded me that his generation did not grow up in a society where “caffeine culture” was prominent for the teenage audience. Caffeine culture is like any other culture involving any drink – it concerns the social value of said drink and the economy revolving around it.

As Jenks is a high school right around the corner from Tulsa’s booming local cafe industry, I wanted to see how caffeine plays a role in the daily life of JHS students.

A poll was taken surveying 197 students from Jenks High School. 47% of students admitted to having become caffeine dependent this year alone. When asked the reasoning behind why JHS students consume caffeine, the answers vary: 

“I started drinking coffee when I was nine years old because I really liked the taste of it, but the hyper effects of it quickly stopped showing up because of how frequently I drink it.” -Sophomore

“My caffeine intake really started in late 2018, I used it so I could feel more awake for school, or be more awake for anything in general.”

-Junior

“I was at Target with a group of friends and there was a shelf full of those Bang energy drinks that I’d seen all over TikTok so I decided to try one… Let’s just say, I’m sticking to coffee and never having a Bang again, that [REDACTED] was carcinogenic” 

-Sophomore

This data shows that students of all kinds from JHS have acquainted themselves to be part of today’s “caffeinated culture”, but why are many more teenagers placing themselves into this societal standard?  

During sixth grade, a group of friends and I begged my parents to take us to Starbucks, not the nearest Starbucks, but the one in Utica Square because that’s where all of the “popular” kids from my school went. We all ordered our favorite looking drinks from the “secret menu” we saw on Pinterest and put our drinks together to compile the coolest Instagram post of 2017. 

My sixth grade friend group (in retrospect) proving the idea that trends can entice younger children into consuming psychoactive substances.

One reason as to why many teenagers have had increasing caffeine intake is partially due to the marketing of numerous energy drink/coffee brands; I’ll be focusing on the controversial Bang Energy brand. 

Bang Energy was introduced in 2012. They claim to be a healthy energy drink company that contains on average 300 milligrams of caffeine per drink. It’s recommended that the average teenager consume no more than 100 milligrams of caffeine a day. 

Bang is known to be one of the rising stars of caffeinated beverages. A vast majority of their  consumer base is teenagers and adolescence. From flavors ranging from cotton candy to birthday cake, the enticing flavors are sure to attract teenagers (just as they did during the rise of JUUL and other prominent vape companies).

In recent years, Bang energy took to further attracting their teenage audience by hopping onto the social media platform TikTok. As Bang rose in popularity, so did their sponsors of the brand. On TikTok, you’ve most likely stumbled across a well known influencer who has posted a video simply holding the drink shedding spotlight to the brand. Under-age influencers have also been spotted sponsoring the brand raising concern to many parents and adults alike. 

With this, Bang Energy — and other energy drink companies — are using the same marketing tactics that Big Tobacco has used for ages. Flashy packaging and advertising, many flavors, viral media marketing, ect. To conclude, while caffeine is not harmful for most teens (in moderation), there is clearly an epidemic pertaining to this. Nearly 50% of the school claimed to be dependent on caffeine and now we are seeing energy drinks marketed like Newports; where should we draw the line?

Sara LaFevers, grade 10, shares her creation from an old Bang can

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