Twelve. She has had 12 cups of coffee a week since 7th grade. She buys the beans from Starbucks and grinds them at home. She drinks it completely black. For Emma Roberts, junior, consuming this much caffeine is a normal routine.

“I love coffee,” Roberts said. “That’s one of the first things people know about me.”

Coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant drug that increases the activity in the nervous system. Other stimulants include nicotine, cocaine and methamphetamines. According to Dr. Anna Huger, pediatrician at Purely Pediatrics, stimulants are unhealthy for teenagers. Huger says the way caffeine works is by attaching to the adenosine receptors in the brain, which are responsible for feeling drowsy and tired. The caffeine stops them, but over time the body produces more adenosine receptors that require more caffeine to achieve the same result.

Caffeine is a highly addictive drug. A study done by Medical News Today says 86 percent of teens consume caffeine regularly. According to the US National Library of Medicine, caffeine consumption in teens has increased 70 percent over the past 30 years, and Huger believes part of it is due to a cultural shift.

“It’s a social thing,” said Huger. “Teens like going to the coffee shop with their friends and getting [caffeinated beverages].”

Morgan Campbell has been a Starbucks barista for three years, and she says they see many teenagers come in before and after school, and almost always order drinks containing caffeine. On Friday afternoons from 3-4 p.m., the Kirkwood Starbucks experiences what they call “kid-rush,” when young customers flock to their store. Campbell estimates that 70 percent of these kids order caffeinated drinks.

Starbucks is not the only thing contributing to adolescent caffeine consumption. KHS has a coffee shop called Pioneer Perks that is open during the morning, selling assorted iced and hot coffees. The coffee shop is known among KHS students, with 32 (116/370) percent visiting it at least once a week. KHS also sells Mountain Dew Kickstart in the cafeteria and vending machines, an energy drink containing 92 milligrams of caffeine, as much as a regular coffee. Roberts believes most students at KHS experience caffeine cravings, and thinks the majority are addicted.

“I think I am addicted to caffeine, but I don’t think its a problem,” Roberts said. “When I don’t have coffee I don’t get headaches, and I’m never too tired because I get enough sleep.”

Teenagers are recommended no more than 100 milligrams of caffeine per day. That is equivalent to one energy drink, one soda, or one coffee drink. Any more caffeine can lead to side effects such as rapid heart rates, fatigue, anxiety and insomnia.

“Teenagers do most of their growing and developing when they are asleep,” Huger said. “If they can’t sleep, they can’t grow.”

Caffeine is deadly. Unlike nicotine and marijuana, it is possible to overdose on caffeine. In April of 2017, teenager Davis Cripe died from a caffeine overdose. He drank a McDonalds latte, a large Mountain Dew and an energy drink in a two hour time period, causing his body to shut down. He is not the first teen to die from a caffeine overdose, with the death of 19 year-old James Stone in 2007, whose death was caused by caffeine pills. Also, the energy drink 5 Hour Energy has been linked to 13 deaths and 33 hospitalizations after overconsumption.

“It is important to take caffeine breaks,” Campbell said. “Decaf tastes exactly the same, and [it can create] a placebo effect.”

Although potentially deadly, caffeine in moderation has certain health benefits. A study done by Medical News Today says that adults who regularly drink coffee reduce their risk of liver cancer by 50 percent and potentially lowers their risk of mouth and throat cancer. Caffeine also helps with focus, concentration and mood.

Too much caffeine is still a health risk for teens, but it is a risk 55 (203/370) percent of KHS students are willing to take. Whether is is due to a caffeine addiction or a cultural norm, caffeine consumption in teenagers is on the rise.

“One [cup of coffee] would not be enough,” Roberts said. “I want two. My black coffee addiction is good enough for me.”

What is being done:

The FDA has begun to crack down on caffeine powders. They are asking companies to discontinue bulk powder sales in an effort to prevent caffeine overdoses.