The current generation of adolescents is under a lot more pressure to achieve than ever before. As society is demanding more on adolescents, they feel pressured to study longer, participate in extracurriculars, and compete for sports. This leaves adolescents no room for failure and always having to bring their ‘A’ game. Adolescents are always on the lookout for ways to improve by all means necessary.
Caffeine can exhibit similar rewarding properties that are seen in addictive drugs. Although the stimulant effects of caffeine doesn’t cause euphoria or a feeling of high like other drugs, it may produce energizing properties like wakefulness and alertness making individuals crave for those rewarding properties. Caffeine consumption during adulthood has been widely believed to have negligible long-term effects, however...
Is that also the case in adolescence when their brains are still developing?
While adolescent rats exhibited increased drug-seeking behavior and attractiveness towards the contexts in the environment associated with the reward of the drug prior to caffeine exposure, adult rats didn’t show these behaviors.
This suggests that caffeine consumption during adolescence increases the effect cocaine has on the reward system in the brain and could increase adolescents’ likelihood to try the drug again. However, it doesn’t increase their risk of trying the drug to begin with. In contrast, chronic caffeine use during adulthood wouldn’t result in these brain changes.
Perhaps we should question:
Why do we allow adolescents to consume caffeine?
Is it because we think it’s benign? Is it because we believe that in adults, it doesn’t have long-lasting effects?
This study states that, but it doesn’t hold true for adolescents. Caffeine has been shown to leave long-lasting effects in adolescents’ brains, making them more sensitive and susceptible to drug effects.
Well, what can we do?
We could change the caffeine concentration in drinks, limit who has access to caffeine, or ban it altogether.
However, these possibilities are difficult due to the lack of regulation we have on caffeinated drinks to make an impact.
Raising awareness about this issue can save adolescents from over-consuming caffeine to compete in stressful environments and prevent long-lasting impacts it can have on the brain.
Created with images by Pexel Original Article: O'Neill, C. E., Levis, S. C., Schreiner, D. C., Amat, J., Maier, S. F., & Bachtell, R. K. (2014). Effects of adolescent caffeine consumption on cocaine sensitivity. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 40(4), 813-21. Brazier, Y. (2016, March 8). Adolescents drink too much caffeine. In Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/307526.php Coffee acts just like cocaine, says scientist (2008, July 18). In Beverage Daily. Retrieved from https://www.beveragedaily.com/Article/2002/09/02/Coffee-acts-just-like-cocaine-says-scientist?utm_source=copyright&utm_medium=OnSite&utm_campaign=copyright