Could Caffeine Corrupt Your Kids? by Jules Chabot

Press release inspired by: “Effects of Adolescent Caffeine Consumption on Cocaine Sensitivity” by Casey E O’Neill, Sophia C Levis, Drew C Schreiner, Jose Amat, Steven F Maier, and Ryan K Bachtell in Neuropsychopharmacology (2015).

Is it a slippery slope?

How early did you start drinking coffee? I remember taking my first sips during middle school, much to the chagrin of my mother, who worried it would affect my growth. We now know coffee doesn’t stunt growth, but my mom may have been right to be wary of my slurping of the stimulant regardless.

Existing scientific research reveals that in addition to energizing the body, caffeine affects the brain broadly by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which plays a role in processes related to reward and addiction. In fact, it is known that people who regularly consume caffeine are much more likely to have a substance abuse disorder. All my life my mom stressed over my susceptibility to addiction, considering our family history of alcoholism and drug problems. Should she have cared more about the gallons of Starbucks I drank as a teen?

Neuroscientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder sought to find an answer for parents everywhere. Neuroscientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder sought to find an answer for parents everywhere. “We unfortunately couldn’t abduct people’s children in the night to experiment with drugs, but rats were a good alternative”* joked Dr. Ryan Bachtell, the principle investigator on the study. Bachtell and his colleagues exposed adolescent rats to a caffeine solution to see its impact on their brains and behavior in adulthood when given cocaine.

"We unfortunately couldn’t abduct people’s children in the night to experiment with drugs, but rats were a good alternative."*

Cocaine, like caffeine, is a stimulant, meaning that in animals like rats we see increased locomotion, or movement, in response to taking the drug. Without having had cocaine before, rats that consumed caffeine in adolescence demonstrated elevated locomotion while on a cocaine-high compared to rats that did not have caffeine as adolescents. These rats also found cocaine and its related cues to be particularly rewarding, wanting to spend more time around them than their caffeine-naïve counterparts. Their behavior was reflective of chemical changes in the brain.

paid partnership with Starbucks Inc.

Rats that had caffeine during adolescence had increased levels of D2 receptors, proteins that dopamine activates to send messages between neurons, in an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, which contributes to motivated behavior and the development of addiction. Interestingly, rats that consumed an equivalent amount of caffeine only during adulthood did not show the heightened response to cocaine that those that consumed caffeine in adolescence did. This indicates that there’s something about the adolescent brain that is sensitive to caffeine, and that this sensitivity could affect how one might respond to cocaine as an adult.

Personally, I haven’t tried cocaine. But if I decided to snort a line at a party, would this data mean I would become addicted, given my history with caffeine? Certainly, I wouldn’t be the only one at risk considering the ways in which caffeine is reaching kids today, given marketing efforts from soda companies. Should we be on board with initiatives to curb caffeine consumption among kids? You can never know if your child is going to take drugs one day, so for now, it may be best to offer your coffee-craving kid a cup of calming chamomile instead.

*Quote is fictitious andwas created as an artistic tool to provide depth and meaning to the Press Release.

Created By
Jules Chabot


Created with images by Mike Kenneally - "untitled image" • Eduardo Dutra - "untitled image" • frank mckenna - "untitled image" https://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-myths-from-mom-true-or-false.html http://horizonsclinic.ca/drug-addiction/the-financial-burden-of-a-drug-addict/ https://www.redbubble.com/people/adraw/works/37585366-caffeine-turns-dopamine?cat_context=u-prints&grid_pos=89&p=photographic-print&rbs=fbcb1e0f-272b-41de-a635-047b040cba9c&ref=shop_grid&searchTerm=dopamine%20prints http://www.stickpng.com/img/at-the-movies/the-muppets/kermit-drinking-tea https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130924091323.htm

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