Erica Greaves / Silhouette Intern

Being criticized seems to be a staple in teenage life; some criticisms more severe than others. I personally have an issue with being criticized over one thing: caffeine intake. Like every youth, I faced arguments built on rumors such as “caffeine will stunt your growth” and “caffeine causes heart disease” from the adults in my life. Since then, it has been my mission to reveal the true facts and answer the questions everyone has been asking: is caffeine really harmful? Does it need to be controlled like alcohol and cigarettes?

First of all, we need to address what the real risks of caffeine are. Let’s start with symptoms: increased mental speed, feeling alert and increased heart rate are most common. As you can see, these side effects are minor and hardly interfere with every day life. However, caffeine can also cause anxiety, headaches and gastrointestinal pains. These side effects are not severe, but are present and can be worse in those who already have general or social anxiety, chronic headaches or migraines and gastrointestinal problems to begin with.

Now because caffeine is classified as a drug, the question arises, is overdose possible and what would happen in the case that one should take place? An overdose is defined as administering too large a dose or too many doses. In this context, an overdose could simply mean drinking one too many cups of coffee in a day than what you are used to. Symptoms of a caffeine overdose could be tremors, nausea and in some cases, a panic attack.

Given this information, should caffeine be controlled? We’re almost there, as we must next examine what effects caffeine has on children and youth, because as it stands now a child could walk into a coffee shop and order something with no law to bind them. Among children, caffeine can cause nervousness, upset stomach, headaches, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping and weight gain.

These symptoms are quite similar to those of adults, and with obesity rates in children and teens already at an all time high caffeine is the last thing children need to be served. Let’s not forget however, that caffeine is a major ingredient in soft drinks as well, a treat often given to children on special occasions and sometimes for no reason at all. Seeing these effects on children could cause serious problems in the classroom when they’re trying to focus, as well as at home when it comes to irritability and sleep loss.

At last, we can finally answer the question everyone has been asking; does caffeine need to be controlled? I would say yes. Though caffeine is a socially accepted drug like nicotine and alcohol, it is on some level addictive because it can cause withdrawal. Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal can include headache, fatigue, muscle pains and perspiration. The severity of symptoms may vary depending on the person and how often the person drinks caffeinated beverages. I believe a person should be at least 16 years of age when they decide they would like to put themselves at the minor yet possible risks caffeine pose. In putting a cap on the age in which a person can purchase caffeinated beverages, we can control the number of youth and children suffering from caffeine’s effects in school and at home, especially is they have health conditions that put them more at risk than their peers.

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