November 29, 2010 9:11 PM   Subscribe

I bought Theazine, an energy supplement to help with school work. Everyone in my family is making a big deal out of it. Idk what to think anymore.

Basically, I'm 17 and a Junior in highschool. I always have trouble staying focused when doing homework. I feel like I'm almost ADD but not enough to be asking a doctor for aderall. I have a lot of trouble staying focused on anything thats not due the following day. I can wish all I want to try and finish homework a day early because I had no homework that day, but I always fail to get the motivation. I always end up with the "fuck it" attitude, pack up my backpack and browse the web reading blogs and working on other hobbies. This really effects me when it comes to papers. I can never find the motivation in writing up a paper a week before. The only time I can get into the zone for writing papers is the night of when its 1am and I still have to write another 2 pages. I would consider myself a good writer, and I know I just typed a load of bullshit, but its 3am and I need to go to bed. I end up getting a C which really pisses me off because I know I could have done better. Then when it comes to studying for tests, it always seems like I end up having two on the same day and I haven't started studying for either. And studying a little bit everyday has never worked for me for single tests. I can't focus at all until its like 6pm or something then I usually blow of the second test and I bomb it. A lot of classes that I should have gotten As in are due to this reason. So I've been looking to find something that would help me get better at school things.

I came across Theazine after reading a post on Lifehacker about tea and what it does to you. They said that a mixture of the Theanine and Caffine delievers a very deep level of consentration. That sortof jumped off the page for me. I could use that. I've done the whole energy drink or drinking 2 cokes to get myself filled with caffine, but its a jittery energy and is not ever effective when it comes to saying focused on something before 1 in the morning the day its due. I looked around the web and the only thing that had caffine and Theanine in it was this. The price was a little steep but its not like like broke (I work) so I bought it. It came in the mail today and I showed my mom thinking it wouldn't be a big deal. She gets really mad at me and starts reading everything on the bottle. Her biggest argument is that its says only 18 and up should take it. I'm 17. I told her its not like its poison until I turn 18. They just don't want to get sued when some dumbass 12 year old double doses and dies from it. I had to hide the bottle because she wants to take it and throw it out.

My sister is 21 and in college. I love her and everything, I told her what I bought but the mood she was making sounded like I was a heroine addict and she was trying to convince me to go sober and change my life. She was concerned how I turned to a drug to help my schooling and not try to study without distractions. I tried that. I will simply sit there and space out.

When I read all of this back to myself, it feels like I should be talking about how I'm taking some hard drug. BUT I'M NOT. ITS A FUCKING ENERGY PILL FOR GODS SAKE. I've read plenty of reviews on the stuff and everyone says it works fine. Its a respectable company. I can't find anyone that says the stuff in it is dangerous and I shouldn't take it. Theres no difference between this and drinking a shit load of tea and chasing it with a coke.

Idk, I really needed somewhere to vent after the events of today. What do you think? To me, its a fucking energy pill that I'm going to use responsibly and no one should be making a big deal about it. I can see my parents side, how would I feel if my kid just bought an energy supplement off the internet? But I think there over reacting. My sister is the one that can sit down and burn though studying for hours at a time like its nobodies business. But I can't do that without some sort of kicker.

Your thoughts. Please. :)
posted by NotSoSiniSter to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My thoughts are you should go talk to a doctor about possibly having ADD. That is not the same thing as going to a doctor for Adderall. There are plenty of behavioral interventions that you can try before that.

Is this heroin? No, of course not. But it is a drug, and you're 17, which means your body and your brain are not done growing yet, and it could affect you in the long term. Caffeine is highly addictive and not all that good for you. It causes withdrawal. Maybe there isn't a huge difference between this and several shots of espresso, but that's also bad for you.

Basically, in my opinion, you should start somewhere else. That's not the same thing as panicomgthisisgoingtokillyou, but it's definitely not good for you, and it's not like you're going to be taking it just this once or, if you're planning on college, like your situation is going to get better. Try behavioral strategies first. Get your doctor's help and advice.
posted by brainmouse at 9:20 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

According to Wikipedia, L-Theanine is GRAS ("Generally Recognized As Safe"). Caffeine is the same.

There doesn't seem to be any kind substantial danger here; about the worst hazard is that it may have turned out that you wasted your money.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:22 PM on November 29, 2010

If it's not a controlled drug that's illegal to use or you need a prescription for, I don't really see a problem. I do, however, think it'd probably be better in the long-run to get some help developing better study and homework strategies. If your family is so concerned, maybe they can help you find a tutor or other similar professional to help you find methods that work and don't involve energy drinks.
posted by Menthol at 9:24 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Megadoses of vitamins aren't good for you regardless of what various health food quacks would have you believe, and there's no evidence that B vitamins act as an energy booster (also despite the many claims otherwise). The website for the manufacturer carefully doesn't list an amount of either the theonine or the caffeine, so there's no way you can be sure you're getting either a safe dose or an active dose.

You're way better off just drinking a cup of actual tea. It has a therapeutic amount of caffeine and plenty of polyphenols and alkaloids with bioactive properties (including improving focus in at least some people) and it's a shit load cheaper. Hell, pop a nodoze if you don't like tea.

Supplements like this aren't dangerous (assuming you take the appropriate dose, too much caffeine can be fatal) but they are scams. Seems to me your family is getting wound up about the wrong thing.
posted by shelleycat at 9:27 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

Lifehacker is a bunch of hack writers that fetishize caffeine and none of them are in any way qualified to diagnose or treat ADD or similar problems. If you're at the point where you believe that you need some outside chemical help dealing with a set of symptoms, it's time to talk to a physician. You will likely also find that you get a good amount of mileage out of working to improve academic skills (versus focusing on a particular subject area). This will make everything seem easier and less of a pain in the ass.

If you want effective chemical strategies, talk to your doctor. Otherwise or additionally, find out through your school which people are available to students to help them with study skills.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:31 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

If all this stuff is is tea compounds, caffeine, B1, folic acid, and B12... wouldn't you arouse less parental ire if you bought an electric kettle, became a green tea snob, and got some multivitamins? Then it just looks like an affectation, not a smart drug thing. Parents expect affectations.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:31 PM on November 29, 2010 [9 favorites]

The only warning I'd give is that these "herbal" supplements aren't monitored by the FDA and quality control is a cross-your-fingers situation.

That being said, give it a shot. I can't see how much theanine is in this product (note: "serving" is two capsules) but if it's on the order of 50mg then Wikipedia suggests that's not too much. If we're talking 1000mg then I might be more concerned, this being a new supplement to the market.

Of course, I take my own mixture of supplements. On a typical workout day I've taken 100g whey isolate (plus whatever vitamins they throw in there to raise the price), 100g dextrose, 5g creatine, and 3.3g of BCAA (mixture of l-leucine, l-isoleucune, and l-valine). So yeah...
posted by sbutler at 9:32 PM on November 29, 2010

Short answer: I don't think this stuff is going to hurt you, but I also don't think it's going to help you study better.

I experimented with heavy doses of caffeine around your age. Mostly to help with schoolwork, just like you. It made me a jittery mess. Sometimes I got the work done in the way that I needed to, but just sleeping and eating and generally behaving like a normal person would have produced the same result.

It's impossible for us to diagnose you with ADD over the internet. What you mention about school could be symptomatic of that, or it could just be that you don't have great time management skills and aren't terribly engrossed by your schoolwork. This is pretty typical for someone your age. I'm fairly sure that no energy supplement is going to magically solve either of those two potential issues, and I know it's definitely not going to solve problems with ADD. If you are concerned about ADD you should seek a diagnosis for that, the prospect of medication being neither here nor there at this point.
posted by Sara C. at 9:33 PM on November 29, 2010

Drugs won't actually make you focus or study, Adderall included. I'd be surprised if Theazine does what you want it to do -- actually, I'd be shocked. Improving your study habits is the only way to improve your study habits, although if you really have this big of a problem, you should consider talking to a doctor (and not asking for a drug, but asking for the doctor's opinion).

You're right that this doesn't make you a drug addict; it's not like you're taking meth.

My concern would be more that you don't seem to understand what you're putting in your body. Did you know that tea has caffeine in it? Coke does not have that much caffeine, incidentally. As for the B vitamins, energy drink makers claim effectiveness (5-hour energy shots and Red Bull, for example, are loaded with them), but there's no science supporting that claim. There also doesn't seem to be science supporting the claim that the theanine in this stuff mellows you out (stimulants for ADHD have that effect, in contrast to the jitteriness associated with too much caffeine). But if you take a pill and try it, if you're not taking dangerous levels of caffeine, it's probably not going to kill you, so maybe it's worth trying.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:35 PM on November 29, 2010

I've taken this stuff, and it's nothing compared to what Adderall does for my ADD. If you really think you could have ADD or ADHD, get a professional to evaluate you. THis stuff is rather expensive coffee. You could drink a cup of coffee and take some fish oil and get pretty much the same results.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:36 PM on November 29, 2010

(Also, as long as you're eating decently and don't have pernicious anemia, you're probably fine on B1, B12, and folic acid. You could just develop an unnatural fondness for green leafy vegetables with your tea and not even bring pills near your parents.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:36 PM on November 29, 2010

I'm pretty sure your mother is freaked because you're taking pills. That tends to freak mothers out. I don't think we're looking at megadoses of vitamins or addicting levels of caffine here, but that's my judgement. If you think this is going to help you, I don't see a problem but please be aware: this is a bandaid. It is not a strategy. You appear to have a lifelong problem with focus, and let me tell you something: life is long. You're not going to have to solve this problem just for school, you're going to have to solve it for the rest of your educational and working life.

So if you need a short term solution and are comfortable with this, that's a valid choice. But I would leave the issue of the pills to one side and talk to your parents about getting their support in seeing your doctor to address this. Obviously this is a real problem for you and you need a better, longer-term solution for it. This is not that.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:39 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

The only time I can get into the zone for writing papers is the night of when its 1am and I still have to write another 2 pages.

You are describing the habits of many, many, many, many people including myself. As a matter of fact I got so used to talking to SO many people in my college classes who were like "haha, yeah I definitely wrote this paper last night at 3am" that if I ever met someone who was trying to write a paper the week before I was pretty shocked by their diligent habits.

I'm not saying it's weird or shocking to get things done a week early - I work a full time job now and have learned how to manage projects so well that my college self wouldn't even recognize the present me. But don't beat yourself up for procrastinating as a teen - as long as you're getting things done, you're getting things done, and you just need to trust yourself that you'll improve your habits as time goes on because overall procrastinating just isn't fun. As you get bigger and bigger projects, the feelings of dread start to suck more and more and you start to snap out of it.

"Energy pills" probably won't help; they just made me jittery and gave me a stomach ache.
posted by windbox at 9:40 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

sloan kettering [which makes you read through a page of "I understand the risks and will not sue you" kind of language and even click to agree that you read it, BEFORE they let you read any sort of herbal-type information, mostly, probably harmless, unless you're on chemo, though they are more focused on the cancer angle, obviously.
There is a nice bibliography at the bottom, you might find interesting, if you're attempting to convince your parents, but I think I'd
(a) go with the green tea suggestions above and
(b) see a doctor about your concerns-there's no need to discount your concerns AND
(c) ask your parents/school for some outside help getting some resources to work on the study/motivation/organization, etc issues. Because there are awesome people who can teach you successful strategies. Sometimes asking for help is hard, though. That was always my problem.

(also, I'm pretty sure your sister isn't the only awesome kid in your family. just sayin'.
posted by atomicstone at 9:41 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

And, finally, I commend you to a song every 17-year-old in your position should hear: Institutionalized by Suicidal Tendencies.

This familial woe, too, shall pass, and you'll sort out some study habits, get more sleep and exercise, and everyone will get over the $20 bottle of Super NoDoz. Promise.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:50 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't think we're looking at megadoses of vitamins

The website claims something like 6000x the RDI for B1 and 16000x for B12, that's a 'megadose' by any definition. There are quacks who claim that such large doses are necessary or beneficial but they're wrong, and there is evidence that taking such overdoses is actively unhealthy. Either way these vitamins won't do squat for changing concentration, so there is no risk/benefit ratio here. Either they do nothing or they hurt you, so they shouldn't be taken by a growing teenager.
posted by shelleycat at 10:35 PM on November 29, 2010

One thing you might not learn until you're older is that parents, while it seems like they overreact a lot, are wise and have experience. Those pills aren't regulated by the FDA. Like you said, it can also make you jittery and anxious. And sometimes it can mess with your heart rhythms.

A can of Mt. Dew has 80mg caffeine. A large cup of Starbucks could have up to 300mg. That's just to explain to you how much is average in pop or coffee. I don't know what the dose of caffeine is on those pills, and looking at the pic of the back of the bottle, it doesn't appear to list how much is in it. Which isn't cool. You *can* overdose on caffeine. This guy died in October because someone had a bag of powdered caffeine - the serving size was 1/32 of a teaspoon with 90mg caffeine (and you can't measure that or even 1/16th of a teaspoon without a scale designed to weigh mg) - and he took 2 teaspoons of it. I know you're saying to me right now "hey yeah but I'm not going to go way overboard like that," but let's face it, we don't know how much caffeine is in those pills.

I just gave up caffeine a few months ago and I feel a lot less tired now.

I think your parents might also be wondering why your first choice was to buy some pills, instead of asking them or a teacher for advice? And if that doesn't help, the next step is to ask your family doctor.

When it comes to things like homework, don't wait for motivation. It won't come (except the deadline when you know you HAVE to get it done or get a bad grade). Sit down and shut off your cell phone (seriously! Your friends won't die without you for a couple of hours!) and the TV and radio and whatever else is distracting you, and just work. If the Internet tempts you, use Leech Block or whatever else Lifehacker recommends to block internet sites from distracting you.

You seem like a smart guy and you write well. Put off the pills until you've tried some other things suggested in this thread first.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:12 PM on November 29, 2010

I have a tendency to procrastinate as well, and when I was 17 it was seriously messing up my schoolwork. Which meant my internal monologue wasn't so much "At 6pm, I'm going to sit down and work on that report for half an hour," as "Oh my God I can't believe I still haven't done anything, I need to spend all of today until 2am working on it without even a coffee break to make up for that, I am so bad at concentrating on work and I am going to fail all my exams because of it and I can't believe I've just wasted an entire week, God I'm useless," and then of course I wouldn't work until 2am, I'd procrastinate until 1.45am and then rush out a tangled mess I wasn't proud with as a result. Which meant I felt even worse about it, which took me right back to the start of the cycle, and so on.

That's a pretty common tangle to get into, but it's totally possible to get out of. I don't think Theazine, or any other energy supplement, is going to help you with that, though. What you need to do is fix the thought patterns underlying the unfocused procrastination, not try to mask them with drugs.
There are some good resources out there on doing just that. Neil Fiore's book The Now Habit was very useful; I've heard good things about this book, as well.

(If you're dealing with something like ADD, of course, then fixing the thought patterns is a whole different ballgame, but procrastination in and of itself isn't usually a medical condition. Being unable to focus on stuff you don't actually want to do isn't the same as being unable to focus in general, including the stuff you do like doing - and fortunately, it's a lot more fixable. Don't borrow trouble on this one.)
posted by Catseye at 1:07 AM on November 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

Did you know that tea has caffeine in it? Coke does not have that much caffeine, incidentally.

A typical cup of tea has a lot less caffeine than a can of Coke.
posted by Justinian at 2:39 AM on November 30, 2010

Sorry, I'm back. I've been thinking about this part you said: I feel like I'm almost ADD but not enough to be asking a doctor for aderall.
I am neither pro nor anti drugs nor pro nor anti a diagnosis for ADD, etc [OK, that's not entirely true. I'm both pro-drugs and pro-diagnoses for ADD when those situations fit and all parties are in agreement], but I think it's important that you're talking yourself out of an avenue of "help" and sort of automatically assuming it's a 'moral' failing [motivation/sticktuitiveness] sort of issue. Especially wrapped up into your view of your sister as a superstar studier.
Maybe it is.
Maybe not.
Bu you're not an expert.
You don't know.
And you're struggling.
I think, what I'm struggling here to say is-don't be so wise about yourself that you cut off the avenues that could actually help you succeed. [all of these things people have mentioned that might work, as opposed to an expensive bottle of eh].
posted by atomicstone at 4:12 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Since your question was "What do you think?" I'm going to tell you what I think.

I think you sound like a lot of us! Some of us find homework a chore. We like to procrastinate! We surf the Internet or do other things instead of working! I'm twice your age now and I was like that in high school (or probably way worse than you!) and I still have those impulses.

Basically, my work now, 20 years after high school graduation, is pretty much just like writing school papers. I have to study things and learn things and then explain those things to readers. And guess what? Lots of the time I don't write this stuff until the night before. I've gotten *better* about this but it's how many of us are built.

One of the reasons we have that jittery, can't-deal-with-this impulse, in my experience, is just plain anxiety. When I get all worked up and anxious, or things are weighing on my mind, the less I can focus, the less I *want* to focus, the more I want to play videogames or read or sleep or whatever.

And you are at a stressful point in your life and I don't think that's unusual! You're a junior. People around you are beginning to deal with college. Your fellow students are now working at preparing for the next stage in their life. There's a lot of pressure, and a lot of scrutiny.

More than anything, you very much need to take a deep breath and look at your long game here. The long game is where you end up as an adult. The short game to get there is your homework. So whatever goals you have set for yourself for the long term have daily preparation consequences.

For instance, when you're pulling those Cs on papers you know you could have gotten an A in? You're actually stealing from your future success.

I don't say this to stress you out more! I say this to let you know that things in your life are going to change very radically, very soon. And that you're in control of that.

For me, I was unable to visualize and articulate what I wanted for my post-high-school life. And so, therefore, when all my friends got accepted into colleges, I did not. And the consequence was that I never went to college, that I started working at 17 when I graduated, and that it then took me at least a decade to start working in my dream industry (which I do now, quite happily). If I'd been more able to game out those crucial few years, I might have had a far happier or easier time of it. (Although, you know, it all shakes out the way it's supposed to! I can promise you that.)

So in the interest of giving you perspective, I am concerned that your written skills are not quite what they should be. And the writers I know that write hopped up on caffeine and Adderall and the like make *more* of those rushed mistakes. You're clearly very smart, and you're good at expressing yourself. I know it was late at night when you posted, but the sheer number of typos and mistakes in your posting speaks to me of someone who's not quite as comfortable with writing as you will need to be—or at least of someone who's jittery, scattered and impatient. And so my experience suggests that if you could begin building skills to work in a relaxed, thoughtful manner, instead of in a rushed, frantic manner, your work and writing would benefit.

You'll find your way. You may not agree with your parents and sister regarding what they're saying to you. Taking low-grade stimulants like this may help you work! And I do think it's a good sign that you're working at solving your procrastination and avoidance issues. But I think you'll find success not in getting amped up, but in learning to relax, to take things slowly, to take pleasure in learning and reading and writing, to finally unwind and feel some peace and pleasure in reading and writing and learning.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:52 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Regardless of all the other good advice here, the real answer is that this stuff won't work. Caffeine doesn't improve focus, it just makes you awake. Too much caffeine makes ADD-like symptoms worse. You are still as unfocused as ever, you just have the energy to flit from thing to thing a bit more efficiently. Theanine might help focus- I know green tea did help me focus a bit, but I don't know if theanine was the reason or not.

Also, caffeine ruins sleep quality. The time you would be taking this, in the afternoon or evening, is the time of day when you really shouldn't be taking it. It depends on the person, of course, but if you get a couple of hours of boost off of caffeine, you are signing up for another couple hours of unboosted, jittery misery. You might fall asleep, but it won't be quality sleep and you'll have to drag-ass out of bed in the morning, starting the cycle all over again.

No matter where you are on the ADHD spectrum- whether it is a raging case or a non-diagnosable sub-clinical touch of it, pills are only part of a solution. You still need to develop the productivity skills. Break the work into attainable pieces. Make a to-do list, then order it according to importance, then do the work. You need to teach yourself that by doing the work first, in an efficient way, you will end up having more time to indulge in whatever it is that distracts you from your work.

And those who say that pulling all-nighters and burning the candle at both ends is a necessary part of schooling are wrong. It is, at best, a mistake that everyone has to make before they realize how to really be productive. The quicker you convince yourself of that, the better off you'll be. (Think of it like this: you know when you have a weekend where you have NOTHING due and NOTHING hanging over you? Then think of a weekend where you have lots of stuff to do, but you ignore it. You might be able to do the same things as the other kind of weekend, but all that shit hanging over your head makes you enjoy it less.
posted by gjc at 6:47 AM on November 30, 2010

"I feel like I'm almost ADD but not enough to be asking a doctor for aderall. "

I felt the same way. I convinced myself that if I actually did have ADHD, it would have been diagnosed long before adulthood. I was just lazy, I decided, and if I tried harder and did more all-nighters, the problem would go away. The problem was that I couldn't focus enough to even begin "trying harder". I'd make to-do lists and fail to get around to actually doing anything on them. I'd go to the library to start researching a paper and become distracted by interesting books. I had a planner, but I never managed to write anything in it.

Then, when I was a junior in college, my younger sister was diagnosed with ADHD. She was 18. I realized that I had most of the same symptoms she did, and when I saw how her life changed when she started taking medication, I was evaluated. It turns out that I have inattentive type ADHD as well. I am confident that had I sought medical advice much earlier, my academic life would have been much less fraught with frustration.

Presumably, the reason you have a doctor is that you don't enjoy living with chronic dysfunction, be it mental or physical.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 7:22 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't just rule yourself out: see a doctor, as in a psychiatrist or neurologist, who specializes in ADD/ADHD. It's a nuanced disorder and only a specialist can tell you if you have it or not. A nonspecialist medical professional can't tell you, we can't tell you, and you can't tell yourself.

I don't know if your wacko attention patterns, waning motivation, and turvy-topsy sleep habits are because of your age or something else. Whether or not you have ADD/ADHD, a specialist will be able to direct you to all kinds of resources for mastering these things, whether or not they also offer you pills to swallow.

I'm concerned that you are trying supplements as a way to solve this problem, not because they'll automatically ZOMG REEFER MADNESS kill you, but for all the reasons explained above. I think you'll be better served by learning to evaluate product claims and while Lifehacker is okay for productivity hacks, it's not a source of medical info. Quackwatch will be more useful to you the next time you are thinking of trying a supplement.
posted by tel3path at 7:45 AM on November 30, 2010

My thoughts?

I think that you sound a lot like me. I have ADD. On the milder end, but it still has significant negative impacts on my life, so I take medication, and that helps a lot.

I think that if you're willing to buy somewhat pricey supplements to address your problems, then you ought to be willing to go to a doctor and see if you have ADD, and if so, to look at ways (medication and/or non-medication) to address it.

I think that obviously it depends a lot on your particular mother, but even if this supplement is in fact totally safe, I can understand her being freaked out by the idea of you taking an unregulated supplement (especially since she has not done the extensive reading about it that you have), and maybe you getting a diagnosis and potential medication under a doctor's care could be a lot more comfortable for her.

(Alternatively, I think you should print out information about how safe it is from the most reputable sources you can find. It may not help if she's not being very rational about this, but maybe...)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 5:07 PM on November 30, 2010

Oh, and in case you haven't read The ADD Thread, here's a link. You might find it valuable to look for stories of people whose experiences sound similar to yours, who in many cases talk about what they have done to treat their ADD and whether/how things have changed in their lives as a result, to help you decide if it's worthwhile to explore whether you have it and if so, how you could treat it.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 5:16 PM on November 30, 2010

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