MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) It's an overlooked addiction creeping into homes all across the country. Teenagers getting hooked on a drug that's extremely easy to get, and typically never on the parent's radar.
Overdosing on caffeine is not only becoming a trend among young people, it can leave lasting health effects that many are unaware of.
WMBF News Anchor Chandi Lowry puts one specific energy supplement to the test.
All kids have to do is pop a can to get a jolt, and now they don't even have to waste time drinking their energy.
The latest caffeine laced product hitting stores shelves is called Sheets. Consumers simply place the thin, dissolvable film on their tongue and in seconds get that instant energy boost.
"Everywhere you look they are trying to sell you a rush of energy," says concerned parent David Jones.
Despite the health risks and addiction aspects, caffeine, in some form, can literally be purchased on every street corner.
"It's pretty scary cause it's something that's sold over the counter," admits parent Troy Brimmer. "You go into a convenience store and get it."
Caffeine seekers are becoming younger, and the cravings for that energy high are getting stronger among consumers.
"Oh, it's terrible," says Sean Engle, a daily energy drink consumer. "First thing in the morning, that's what I want. Anytime I'm in a store and I see [the energy drinks], I want to buy one even though I just had one. I want one."
At one point Sean drank 10, 32 ounce energy drinks a day to keep him alert for his two jobs. He says the feeling is addictive.
"I want to run. I want to fix things. I wanna mow grass. It's like I'm invincible," admits Sean of his caffeine highs.
The instant energy cravings has move to kids, including young athletes looking for the rush.
"You really don't talk about caffeine that much; it's always illegal drugs or what have you, but you never talk about caffeine," says Brimmer. "[The kids] just might not have any idea of what it can do to them."
"Sheets...The new way to do energy" as the slogan states, is promoted by models, professional athletes like Lebron James, and famous musicians like Pitbull.
When asked his feelings about the Hollywood faces and big name athletes promoting the new product, Brimmer had a single word reaction.
"Irresponsible," he states.
The Sheets package is labeled that caffeine is not intended for children under the age of 12, but as many may assume, parents aren't sure kids take heed to such warning.
"Who reads the fine print on those things," questions Brimmer. "Certainly not kids."
Anchor Chandi Lowry put Sheets to the test.
Cristi Cimineri, Academic Chair of Nursing and Health Science at Horry Georgetown Technical College, says everyone is affected by caffeine differently.
"Anytime you introduce any type of stimulant with caffeine in it, you're going to have common affects like an increase in heart rate," Cimineri explains. "You may have increase in respiratory rate, and you could also have an increased rate in blood pressure."
Two Sheets equals 100 milligrams of caffeine. That's equivalent to a small cup of McDonald's coffee.
Lowry tests her heart rate before consuming Sheets which fluctuated between 72 and 82 beats per minute.
One half hour and two Sheets later, Lowry's heart rate increased to 88 to 98 beats per minute.
The final portion of the test was to compare the resting heart rate and then the heart rate after consuming a small cup of coffee. Lowry's heart rate shot to 96 to 104 beats per minute after a cup of Joe.
"The strange thing is that the Sheets made me shake and my heart felt like it was pumping much faster," says Lowry after the testing.
Cimineri says those side effects are classic to over consumption of caffeine.
"Too much caffeine is when you see people with their hearts racing, or they may have shaking hands or they feel like they just want to get up and run," she describes.
Greg Martel is an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator for Exercise and Sports Science. He says when you exercise, studies show caffeine can actually help in certain areas.
"Reaction time, mental alertness or the perception of how hard you are exercising gets a little bit better," states Martel.
Since these energy supplements are often marketed toward athletes, WMBF News Photographer and avid runner Drew Hansen hit the treadmill for the same test.
Hansen's heart rate before exercise: 76 beats per minute. After 10 minutes on the treadmill, his heart was pumping at 144 beats. Given five minutes of recovery his heart rate went down to 74.
Throwing Sheets into the mixture, after 10 minutes of exercise Hansen's heart rate jumped to 148, then back down to 69 after the recovery time.
Hansen says the sheets actually made him feel tired, a crash the product promises you won't get because there's no sugar.
Since many of the energy enhancers have little or no regulation by the FDA, it's solely up to parents to keep their kids from this addiction.
Information on how caffeine affects young children and teens can be found in the related stories below.