Survey says: 41% use caffeine, a gateway drug, to stay alert

The Start Times Advisory Committee surveyed parents, students, and staff about sleep in June. On October 4, the committee presented the results of the survey at a community forum. This slide shows responses to the question: do you drink caffeinated beverages to help you stay awake and alert? for the student survey. This question was used to understand the use of caffeine as a drug, not looking for incidental consumption.

STAC survey: do you drink caffeinated beverages to help you stay awake and alert?

The response show that 41% of high school students and 9% of middle school students use caffeine every day as a drug to help them stay alert.

During her presentation to the community (at minute 31), Dr. Judith Owens said that researchers have found a connection between caffeine use and drug use, saying:

“There’s data to suggest that early use of caffeine is associated with an increased risk for using illicit drugs and alcohol later on, and the more caffeine these young kids consume, the more likely they are to use these other substances. There’s also a relationship between caffeine and cigarette smoking because caffeine increases the reinforcement effects of nicotine and caffeine is metabolized more quickly by individuals who are smoking cigarettes. This lead to a concern that caffeine may function as a gateway drug and predict the risk of later using things like drugs and alcohol.”

Dr. Owens' presentation on teen sleep: caffeine use