Caffeine: Hooked

Caffeine is my life support. I drink tea and coffee. I drink iced tea like a crazy man because it is my favorite. At Starbucks, I opt for the black iced tea, sweetened. It tastes delicious and it's cheap (in Starbucks terms). Another form of iced tea that I indulge in is Arizona Iced Tea, raspberry, lemon, or green-tea flavored, I down these canned slices of heaven with much enthusiasm. I buy them by the box at Costco. If I'm out and about and need a green-tea fix, I stop by Vons for a gigantic bottle.

I can't explain my love for iced tea. It's not an addiction because I can function fine without craving it. Nor does it have an effect on my mind or behavior. I do not drink iced tea because it contains caffeine. In fact, caffeine does nothing to wake me up. I just like the taste.

Coffee is my other lover. Frappuccino. Macchiato. Latte. Bring it on. Coffee is warm, creamy, and sweet. Sometimes I drink it iced. My current favorite is Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Coffee always tastes good with friends. Again, not an addiction. Coffee is more like an obsession. I don't drink coffee or iced tea daily. Maybe a couple of times a week. I try not to spend too much money because it can get costly, especially Starbucks. -- Derrick Sun, Mt. Carmel H.S.

Until a couple months ago, the caffeine in coffee and soda made my life complete. Then I realized that I didn't need to be taking in so many calories and all that sugar every day. Before I quit, caffeine had control over me. The first thought that would crawl into my head as I rolled out of bed would be...Starbucks! There was no better way to begin my day than with a steamy white-chocolate mocha. The caffeine gave me the energy to help me live up to my loquacious reputation! Later in the day, when the clock struck 12, the thing I desired most to drink was a crisp, cold cola to wash down my food. At lunch, everyone around me slurped sodas, which made them hard to resist. When the tiresome school day finished, arriving home would only be satisfying when greeted by a Coke. So, most days, I drank one or two of them in the afternoon.

Last summer, I visited Starbucks about 10 to 15 days each month. Usually boredom overtook me in the afternoon, so I would walk to the popular coffee spot with a book or my iPod and enjoy a cool Frappuccino for a few hours. To me, that was the ideal summer vacation!

There would be times when I experienced a craving for caffeine if I hadn't consumed any. I have to admit that sometimes I still get cravings. For instance, three weeks ago I felt my stomach pleading for a Coke, so I opened the refrigerator knowing that I would find one. I didn't give in to the yearning that I felt, but it was a close call! -- Alexis Sebring, Carlsbad H.S.

Ah, caffeine...the magical ingredient that makes your heart beat faster and speeds up the blood in your veins. Who can live without it? I am a café-holic. I have at least one caffeinated beverage a day, whether it's a Coke or my all-time favorite, Wild Cherry Pepsi. After drinking only one, I feel revved up for the rest of the day (though I refuse to "drink sweet" before 10 a.m.). Caffeine can often bring people together in friendship, but drinking it solo has its perks. I do, however, have to limit how much I drink. My stomach tends to do an Irish jig if I drink more than three caffeinated beverages, so I tend to limit myself to two; instead of my stomach reenacting Lord of the Dance, it goes into a more modern type of movement.

Sleep is almost always impossible when I have had a soda or a sweet drink after 8 p.m. My adrenaline keeps roaring, so I try to do power pilates to burn it off. That can take anywhere from one to three hours, depending on the soda and caffeine level. My parents are always on me about how much soda I drink. One time, I forgot to give my dog fresh water, so my parents told me I couldn't drink anything for a whole day so I'd know how it feels. Not only did I become thirsty right away, but I was also teased by my ten-year-old cousin. To have someone say, "Ahhh, ice-cold Pepsi. Mmm..." nearly drove me insane.

I don't remember when I started having caffeinated drinks, but I asked for them a lot when I was younger. Usually, the answer was "no," so I suppose that fueled my craving for sweet, syrupy sodas. I guess you could say I have a habit. -- Lee Ann Gonzales, Monte Vista H.S.

Just like thousands of teenagers worldwide, I have been sucked into the caffeinated-drink phenomenon. My two main drinks are coffee and Diet Coke. Growing up in a household with a refrigerator stocked with Diet Coke and the smell of coffee each morning, I did what most people would do: I picked up my parents' habits. I didn't like caffeinated drinks until the stress of adolescent life kicked in. As a kid, I liked sweet drinks such as hot chocolate and Sprite. As I matured, I began to acquire a taste for the "adult" drinks. I began to drink coffee and diet soda frequently, and suddenly a cup of coffee for breakfast became a part of my daily nutrition; diet soda accompanies my lunch and dinner.

My friends and I get together for coffee at least once a week. I spend a minimum of $20 a week on caffeinated beverages. I've even developed a tolerance to caffeine. Though it helps me get through the day, coffee doesn't prevent me from sleeping. I can drink a cup at 11:00 at night and half an hour later fall asleep. In fact, caffeine puts me to sleep. I feel the speedy effects for a short period of time, but I always have a crash and I feel more drained than before I drank that cup of coffee. Despite the drawbacks, I continue to flood my diet with caffeinated drinks. Otherwise, I begin to feel irritated, drowsy, and sometimes I even get headaches. I am hooked. -- Marion Finocchiaro, Grossmont Middle College H.S.

Like so many other Americans, my daily caffeine intake is high. I don't view this as a bad thing, however. To put it into perspective, the drug in our sodas prior to 1903 was cocaine (Coca-Cola...get it?). Caffeine is partly responsible for my good grades in school, my aversion to sleep, my popularity in school, and my good looks. It's a wonder drug. Some drug addicts like to smoke crack. Others enjoy injecting it. The professional elite of America satisfy their caffeine need with a $4.25 Vanilla Mountain Espresso Double Shot (extra whipped cream) from Starbucks. Your annoying coworker prefers to tweak out on Red Bull all day. My caffeine drink of choice is Diet Coke (DC); its shimmering aluminum body, sugarless but sweet nature, and beautiful price tag draw me in. I consume slightly less than a gallon of DC a day, mostly in can and fountain-drink form.

A favorite nighttime activity of mine is putting on CNN's Headline News and relaxing with a pack of David's Sunflower Seeds and an ice-cold DC -- until I'm rudely awakened by the rise of the sun. DC was the main motivation of my purchase of a mini-fridge. Running downstairs became a hassle.

Four years ago, I bothered my girlfriend enough to go on a date with me. I was secure with myself and ordered a DC at dinner, despite the feminine reputation it possesses. She laughed at me. Guess who's addicted now? DC has fueled many memorable all-nighters in which we shared passion.

My mom used to try and limit me to one soda a day. Parents of America, this strategy sucks and should not be implemented. It made me want it more, made the whole thought of drinking DC and caffeine an exciting event. She's cool about it now and keeps the fridge stocked. -- Patrick Cole

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