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We are a caffeinated society, and teens are no exception.

Since the 1970s, the number of teens using caffeine has tripled, with about 75% of U.S. adolescents regularly consuming it today, according to reports. In fact, teens are currently the fastest-growing population of American coffee consumers. According to a study of ninth and tenth grade children published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 44.6 percent consumed caffeinated drinks one to six times per week, 11.4 consumed caffeine every day, and a mere 4.8 never touched caffeine. The reason: to feel more alert and study harder and longer.

A 16-year-old South Carolina boy fell to his knees during art class. He told classmates that he felt lightheaded before then passing out. The teen was rushed to the hospital, where he died a short time later.

In the span of two hours, the young man consumed a café latte from McDonald’s (142 milligrams of caffeine) and a large Mountain Dew (90 milligrams of caffeine). Then he chugged a 10-ounce energy drink (approximately 200 – 300 milligrams of caffeine) when he got to art class. An autopsy showed that the teen had enough caffeine to disrupt, and ultimately stop, his heart. The official cause of death was caffeine-induced arrhythmia, a condition marked by an irregular heartbeat.

The coroner stated the teen was a healthy young man with no pre-existing medical conditions. He said that it is the first time in two decades that he has seen such a case — although he can’t say for sure that other, unexplained deaths didn’t have similar causes. If not for the help of friends, the teen’s death may still be a mystery. “It is likely that caffeine would not have been seen as a factor in his death if it had not been for witnesses who could tell officials what he had to drink before he collapsed during a high school class,” said the coroner. “They were instrumental in helping investigators connect the dots.”

The coroner said it was not the level of caffeine in his system, but the large amount within a short period of time that affected his heart.

While it is perfectly legal for a teen to consume caffeine, the key is “moderate” consumption. The maximum recommended caffeine intake for teens is 100 mg per day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. To put this into perspective, an 8-oz cup of brewed coffee contains 100–200 mg of caffeine. Children and adolescents are advised to avoid energy drinks as they can contain a significant amount of caffeine as well as other stimulants.

It is not only important for parents to know the risks of children and adolescents consuming caffeine, but to keep an eye on how much caffeine their teen is consuming and teach him or her to drink moderately and responsibly.

If you believe your teen or anyone is having a caffeine overdose, seek immediate medical attention. Symptoms include:

  • Jitters, Anxiety or nervousness
  • Restlessness or Insomnia
  • Rapid heart rate or Heart palpitations
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea and/or Vomiting
  • Confusion and/or Hallucinations
  • Excessive urination and/or Diarrhea


Mark Bello has practiced law for 40 years. He is currently the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company, and the author of the legal thriller “Betrayal of Faith” available on major online bookstore sites.

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