Coffee drinkers are birthed during the formative but misshapen adolescent years. I am surprised to see the young high school kids (are they getting younger these days?) sipping cups of coffee. I am suspicious of this behaviour because it more often than not looks to be a mere facade rather than a genuine need. Kids don’t need caffeine like that. Are they sipping themselves into superiority, a feeble attempt to view themselves among the blank ranks of adults?

Despite shifting sleep cycles [1] overrunning mandated school hours, teenagers should be able to operate well enough without a kick of coffee or two. Coffee is pied-pipering as it beguiles youth into a path of unnecessary dependency. This is due to caffeine, a drug long freed from legal shackles. Found in many drinks and treats, caffeine prolongs the effects of cAMP.

cAMP stands for cyclic adenosine monophosphate and is a critical chemical messenger throughout the body. Known as a second messenger, its presence in the bloodstream signals activity of a variety of mechanisms, including the increase of neurotransmitters necessary for alert and awake states [2]. This is useful when strategically deployed, but consistent sympathetic state activation (resulting in “fight or flight” behaviours of threatened creatures) can stress our systems. Tolerance to caffeine can be built over excessive ingestion [3], rendering minimal doses useless. Yet, almost paradoxically, excessive ingestion of this psychoactive drug can also yield symptoms reflecting psychiatric disorders, like anxiety or sleep disturbances [4]. Caffeine could exacerbate anxiety and mimic stress responses during inopportune times.

Kids should have enough energy without excessive caffeine. Perhaps drinking coffee is their way to cope with the challenges of modern life. As students strive for new norms of success, performance-enhancing drugs are left as their only recourse. But I cannot tell you how many times I have met teenagers and then young adults who have frustratingly low amounts of energy, despite them downing the coffee. Kids, and that includes teenagers no matter what they say, have no need for caffeine. Neither do adults.

Unless caffeine is more protective than punitive.

Regular caffeine consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases [5]. This is great, but confusing when considering the other effects of such consumption. Now what to do when faced with new evidence? Instead of clinging onto personal beliefs, listen to what your body tells you. If regular caffeine consumption leaves you drained compared to sparse caffeine consumption, perhaps it’s best to follow the latter route. Let your informed intuition guide you.


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