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Just say no to drugs, alcohol ... caffeine?

Klahowya Secondary School senior Renee Girard (left) hands senior Talisha Affonce a drink from Klahowya’s espresso stand Thursday morning.  - Paul Balcerak/staff photo
Klahowya Secondary School senior Renee Girard (left) hands senior Talisha Affonce a drink from Klahowya’s espresso stand Thursday morning.
— image credit: Paul Balcerak/staff photo

Teens could face health risks.

Klahowya Secondary School senior Kristina Snow is already a seasoned barista, mixing up drinks Thursday morning at Klahowya’s coffee and espresso stand. She presses some crushed coffee beans into her espresso machine, flips a button and fills a white carboard cup with a couple shots for fellow senior Mark Carpentier.

Carpentier stares at the shots in the bottom of his cup and reconsiders his order.

“I’ll order four more shots,” he says.

“You’re gonna have a heart attack,” Snow tells him, facetiously.

“You know what’s funny? I already had two frappuccinos this morning,” Carpentier shoots back.

He didn’t have a heart attack — at least not as of press time — but the amount of caffeine that Carpentier and teens like him ingest on a regular basis is raising concerns with some health professionals.

Of particular concern are highly caffeinated energy drinks like Rockstar, Redline or No Name, which have been prompting school districts and legislatures in other parts of the country to consider keeping kids from bringing them into schools, or banning stores from selling them to kids younger than 18.

“They’re basically like having coffee, double-strength coffee,” said Dr. John Corrales-Diaz, chief of pediatrics for Harrison Medical Center in Port Orchard.

While caffeine is relatively harmless in small doses, overexposure can lead to serious problems.

Headaches and migraines, heart palpatations, difficulty breathing, sweats, dehydration, hypertension and sleep irregularities are all potential side effects of caffeine abuse, Corrales-Diaz said.

It takes a lot of caffeine to work up to the level of having a legitimate health problem, but not so much that it’s difficult.

Anything more than 500 to 600 milligrams of caffeine each day — four to seven cups of coffee, depending on the size — can expose a person to caffeine overexposure, according to the Mayo Clinic’s Web site.

The same site, though, lists a Starbucks “grande” coffee (16 ounces) as having 330 milligrams of caffeine. An 8.4-ounce can of No Name boasts 280 milligrams.

Carpentier’s two frappuccinos and six espresso shots? About 700 milligrams, rounding conservatively.

“It’s only on certain days, like today,” Carpentier said of his caffeine intake. “It’s the middle of the week — I’m tired as hell.”

Other students expressed similar sentiments, saying they only used coffee or energy drinks in the mornings, or when they needed to stay up late to study or just to get through late school activities or work.

Klahowya Head Cook Florence Ortega has noticed more and more teenagers bringing energy drinks to school in the morning and that the drinks only appear to be growing in size and appeal.

“They’re getting bigger and bigger,” Ortega said of energy drinks. “The more elaborate the can, the better.”

Many kids bypass breakfast because the high cost of the drinks — sometimes as much as $4 per can — empties their wallets before they can get in the lunch line, she said. Those who can’t afford drinks carry in 2-liter bottles of soda because, “it’s cheaper.”

Klahowya removed soda machines from its cafeteria a couple of years ago, something Ortega said she’s “glad” about.

Not that that’s stopping students.

“I love energy drinks,” senior Chelsea Micallef said. “They taste good and they make me happy.”

Micallef has about two energy drinks each week, either to wake up in the morning, “or if I just want to be in a good mood for the day,” she said.

Some students, however, have a diametrically opposed view to those of Micallef and Carpentier.

“I read something in a newspaper ... that said MySpace and energy drinks are the new drug,” sophomore Evan Marak said, adding that he only drinks coffee when he has to get to band practices in the early morning hours.

Micallef’s own sister, sophomore Carrie, is adamantly opposed to caffeine overuse, too.

“They’re not healthy,” Carrie said. “They’ll get you up and bring you down again, in my opinion, and they taste nasty.”

That’s closer to the opinion of Corrales-Diaz and of other medical professionals.

“I think basically caffeine is best considered a ‘get up in the morning’ product,” Corrales-Diaz said. “If there’s one thing we know with teenagers it’s that they’re not getting enough sleep. They really need eight hours of sleep, still.”

Besides the obvious “up all night” side effects of consuming caffeine during later hours, it may not be helping kids zero in on their studies as effectively as they think.

“One of the problems is, are you stimuulated to the point of really understanding the material?” Corrales-Diaz said. “Most of what you try and pack into your brain while you’re under the effects will probably be gone by the next morning.”

He especially cautioned against athletes using energy drinks and other caffeinated products, which kids may not realize can cause dehydration, he said.

Of course, the effects of caffeine will always depend on the amount taken in and the size of the person using them.

As a general rule, however, girls should start consuming caffeine no earlier than 16 years of age; for boys, 18, Corrales-Diaz said.

Younger kids are more vulnerable to the effects of caffeine.

“Their bodies may not be really ready for it,” Corrales-Diaz said.

t Teens could face health risks.

Klahowya Secondary School senior Kristina Snow is already a seasoned barista, mixing up drinks Thursday morning at Klahowya’s coffee and espresso stand. She presses some crushed coffee beans into her espresso machine, flips a button and fills a white carboard cup with a couple shots for fellow senior Mark Carpentier.

Carpentier stares at the shots in the bottom of his cup and reconsiders his order.

“I’ll order four more shots,” he says.

“You’re gonna have a heart attack,” Snow tells him, facetiously.

“You know what’s funny? I already had two frappuccinos this morning,” Carpentier shoots back.

He didn’t have a heart attack — at least not as of press time — but the amount of caffeine that Carpentier and teens like him ingest on a regular basis is raising concerns with some health professionals.

Of particular concern are highly caffeinated energy drinks like Rockstar, Redline or No Name, which have been prompting school districts and legislatures in other parts of the country to consider keeping kids from bringing them into schools, or banning stores from selling them to kids younger than 18.

“They’re basically like having coffee, double-strength coffee,” said Dr. John Corrales-Diaz, chief of pediatrics for Harrison Medical Center in Port Orchard.

While caffeine is relatively harmless in small doses, overexposure can lead to serious problems.

Headaches and migraines, heart palpatations, difficulty breathing, sweats, dehydration, hypertension and sleep irregularities are all potential side effects of caffeine abuse, Corrales-Diaz said.

It takes a lot of caffeine to work up to the level of having a legitimate health problem, but not so much that it’s difficult.

Anything more than 500 to 600 milligrams of caffeine each day — four to seven cups of coffee, depending on the size — can expose a person to caffeine overexposure, according to the Mayo Clinic’s Web site.

The same site, though, lists a Starbucks “grande” coffee (16 ounces) as having 330 milligrams of caffeine. An 8.4-ounce can of No Name boasts 280 milligrams.

Carpentier’s two frappuccinos and six espresso shots? About 700 milligrams, rounding conservatively.

“It’s only on certain days, like today,” Carpentier said of his caffeine intake. “It’s the middle of the week — I’m tired as hell.”

Other students expressed similar sentiments, saying they only used coffee or energy drinks in the mornings, or when they needed to stay up late to study or just to get through late school activities or work.

Klahowya Head Cook Florence Ortega has noticed more and more teenagers bringing energy drinks to school in the morning and that the drinks only appear to be growing in size and appeal.

“They’re getting bigger and bigger,” Ortega said of energy drinks. “The more elaborate the can, the better.”

Many kids bypass breakfast because the high cost of the drinks — sometimes as much as $4 per can — empties their wallets before they can get in the lunch line, she said. Those who can’t afford drinks carry in 2-liter bottles of soda because, “it’s cheaper.”

Klahowya removed soda machines from its cafeteria a couple of years ago, something Ortega said she’s “glad” about.

Not that that’s stopping students.

“I love energy drinks,” senior Chelsea Micallef said. “They taste good and they make me happy.”

Micallef has about two energy drinks each week, either to wake up in the morning, “or if I just want to be in a good mood for the day,” she said.

Some students, however, have a diametrically opposed view to those of Micallef and Carpentier.

“I read something in a newspaper ... that said MySpace and energy drinks are the new drug,” sophomore Evan Marak said, adding that he only drinks coffee when he has to get to band practices in the early morning hours.

Micallef’s own sister, sophomore Carrie, is adamantly opposed to caffeine overuse, too.

“They’re not healthy,” Carrie said. “They’ll get you up and bring you down again, in my opinion, and they taste nasty.”

That’s closer to the opinion of Corrales-Diaz and of other medical professionals.

“I think basically caffeine is best considered a ‘get up in the morning’ product,” Corrales-Diaz said. “If there’s one thing we know with teenagers it’s that they’re not getting enough sleep. They really need eight hours of sleep, still.”

Besides the obvious “up all night” side effects of consuming caffeine during later hours, it may not be helping kids zero in on their studies as effectively as they think.

“One of the problems is, are you stimuulated to the point of really understanding the material?” Corrales-Diaz said. “Most of what you try and pack into your brain while you’re under the effects will probably be gone by the next morning.”

He especially cautioned against athletes using energy drinks and other caffeinated products, which kids may not realize can cause dehydration, he said.

Of course, the effects of caffeine will always depend on the amount taken in and the size of the person using them.

As a general rule, however, girls should start consuming caffeine no earlier than 16 years of age; for boys, 18, Corrales-Diaz said.

Younger kids are more vulnerable to the effects of caffeine.

“Their bodies may not be really ready for it,” Corrales-Diaz said.

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