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Chasing that Caffeine High

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More than 500 new energy drinks have been released this past year, and it has doctors worried. Nutritionists warn that the large amounts of caffeine and sugar in each drink can hook kids on an unhealthy up-and-down cycle. The drinks contain megadoses of vitamins, too. These can cause their own side effects if taken every day for a period of months. But maybe the most alarming news comes from reports that kids are drinking several in a row for the high it gives. More and more calls are coming in to poison-control centers from young people sick on too much caffeine.

Danger adds to the appeal. Most brands target in on the danger, particularly towards male teens and twentysomethings. There is "Cocaine Energy Drink," "Pimpjuice," and "Bawls." Hannah Kirby, the creator of Cocaine Energy Drink, said she first wanted to call it "Reboot"--"a pretty ho-hum name." But the name was already taken, so she chose to be daring. The drink is getting the attention she desires, too. Kids quickly noticed it among a thousand other energy drinks. Their slogan: "The Legal Alternative."

Some beer manufacturers now produce "energy beers," or beer that contains caffeine. But mixing energy drinks with alcohol isn't so new. Bartenders have been mixing the first energy drink in the West, called "Red Bull," for more than a decade with vodka. Although the energy drink-alcohol combination doesn't make you feel as drunk, you still are. Coordination and reaction times worsen. The potential for accidents and alcohol poisoning increases.

Just how much caffeine does an energy drink contain? A study at the University of Florida discovered that many of the drinks contain two to four times the amount of caffeine as Coke. The serving size, though, is usually one-third smaller than a standard can. Energy drinks aren't regulated in the U.S., but the study strongly suggests warning labels.

Preview some of the lesson material:

Brainstorm: Brainstorm with a partner(s) all the fads you can remember in your lifetime. What were they? What happened to them? In hindsight, were any dangerous? silly? important?

Questions: Answer the questions to check comprehension.

  1. What do nutritionists warn of?
  2. Why are poison-control centers being called more often?
  3. What is the appeal of names like "Cocaine Energy Drink," "Pimpjuice," and "Bawls?"
  4. What is the primary concern of mixing alcohol with energy drinks?
  5. Why does the Florida study suggest regulating caffeine drinks?

post-Comprehension: Talk about the following questions in pairs/groups. Remember to support your answers!

  1. Have you ever (or do you often) drink energy drinks? Why/not?
  2. Do you think energy drinks are dangerous? How about if you drink them every day?
  3. Why do you think energy drinks are becoming so popular?
  4. Do you think it's safe for kids to drink energy drinks sometimes? Every day? Several times a day?
  5. Caffeine is an addictive drug. Why do you think it remains legal when other, equally harmful drugs are illegal?

Google Search: Type "energy drinks" into Google. Look at the websites, and/or read additional articles on this topic. Discuss or write an essay about your findings.

Download the lesson:

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