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Strategies for Preventing Abuse of Energy Drinks

by Isabel Burk

SkateboarderToday’s teen has a crowded schedule, which begins at dawn and continues long into the night for work, studies or fun. They tell each other about energizing products to stay awake and alert far longer than normal, not understanding the possible consequences. Project ALERT can help you tune students in to information, skills and behaviors that can keep them safe and healthy.

If you have time to plan and teach an additional lesson that focuses on energy drinks, think about using teaching strategies and activities that align with Project ALERT.

Highlight immediate, short-term consequences of use. Make use of Reasons Lists: Reasons Why People Consume Energy Drinks and Reasons Not to Consume Energy Drinks. Remind students that many of the reasons not to consume (dizziness, nausea, headache, thumping heart, insomnia) are feedback from your body, telling you it’s overloaded. Then discuss how to avoid overload: moderation, avoiding combinations of caffeinated products. Pick out the nutritional reasons listed by students to focus on sugar content and its effect on teeth and weight.

If applicable, note that your school has removed soft drinks from its vending machines and cafeterias, to protect student health. Discuss some of the reasons for this decision.  

The high visibility and aggressive marketing of energy drinks and coffee concoctions mean that you can successfully use many of the discussion techniques from Lesson 4, Introduction to Pressures. For example, use of the Advertisement Count Sheet, the Identify Ad Measures activity, and the Rewrite Ad Messages process would all work well. 

Use the Project ALERT role play technique to help youth anticipate and practice ways to refuse energy products. What common situations might your students face? Sports/team practice or events; parties or gatherings; sleepovers; study sessions; finals week; afterschool coffee shop stops. Remind students that the pressure may be external or internal. Create several scenarios, use Poster 9 to assist their discussions, and ask students to brainstorm and perform skits. Praise and reinforce their solutions. 


The student handout: What Teenagers Want to Know About Caffeine and Energy Products can be downloaded from the Project ALERT website. This handout can be used to create a home learning activity or to organize classroom discussion around key topics.


How can you tell what’s in the drink (product)?

How can you energize yourself without soft drinks, coffee, etc.?

Are energy products harmless?

What can you do if you’ve noticed a friend’s increased consumption of energy drinks/coffee products?

What do you tell your younger sister/brother about coffee or other energy products?

You can play the Benefits Game with caffeine and other stimulant ingredients. Some of the Benefits of Not Using Caffeine include being in control; physically fit; better heart health; making your own decisions; free from dependence on substances; sticking to your values; better, deeper sleep.

Ask for examples of people who have stopped drinking coffee or energy drinks (“I know someone who…”) and how their bodies reacted.  

After the Benefits List has been completed, emphasize the benefits of remaining aware of you body’s functioning and supporting optimum health through good nutrition, sleep and physical exercise. Remind students that caffeine and energy drinks often led to dependence, which takes away your control.


Wrap up by noting how common it is for a person to graze, to start the day with coffee, drink a soft drink, eat chocolate, drink an energy drink, have a latte…it all adds up to lots of stimulants and sugar, and a stressful cycle for the heart and body.

Suggest that cutting back on caffeine is one of the life changes that many people consider.  

Remind teens that they have shown good sense, insight, and top-notch skills in Project ALERT, and what they have learned can help them throughout their lifetime with a variety of lifestyle choices.


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