Sheets Give Caffeine Jolt, Potential for Abuse

LeBron James is promoting caffeine strips that appeal to teens and maybe kids.

ByABC News
June 9, 2011, 4:59 PM

June 10, 2011— -- What could be easier than putting a red stamp-sized gel strip on your tongue, letting it dissolve and getting a quick energy jolt? No waiting in line at Starbucks, no alcohol-laden Four Loko, just a straight shot of caffeine; the equivalent of about one cup of coffee.

For most adults, who are used to caffeine, nothing could be simpler, experts say.

Sheets, made by Purebrands, is promoted as "0 calories. 0 sugar. B vitamins. Fast acting. The new way to do energy." And "zero crash," as one strip contains about 50 milligrams of caffeine.

But when this latest energy kick gets in the hands of children or already-wired teens, it has the potential for abuse.

Teens already consume too many daily doses of caffeine, from the morning Joe to cokes and energy drinks that can cause palpitations, anxiety and sleep disturbances, just at the age when they need their sleep for growth, experts say.

"It's a really bad idea," said Rosalind Cartwright, professor emeriti in neurological sciences in the Graduate College at Rush University Medical Center. "One hundred milligrams is not that much. But if used repeatedly, it can cause all kinds of trouble.

"It will give them a jolt and somewhat better focus and attention for a short while, but it has a pretty steep dropoff, and if you keep taking it, you get enormously sleepy afterwards."

Co-founder and advertising spokesman NBA star LeBron James demonstrates using Sheets on YouTube, with star power that is likely to appeal to teens.

The Florida-based company launched a $10 million promotional campaign in May with TV ads featuring star athletes and posted a billboard in Times Square.

Purebrands CEO Warren Struhl was unavailable for an interview but told in an email that, "Sheets has been very clear on their packaging in terms of discouraging usage by kids under 12."

But caffeine can be hazardous for any age in teens who are sensitive or those with heart conditions or attention-deficit disorder.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report this month recommending that teens and children avoid energy and sports drinks, which carry no benefit and some risk. That includes all caffeinated drinks, including colas and coffee.