The Truth About Energy Drinks

Energy drinks can be dangerous. Read for more information.

Energy drinks are beverages that are specifically marketed to young people, with names like Red Bull (“Red Bull gives you Wings”), Venom, Monster, Adrenaline Rush, 180, ISO, and Sprint. These drinks contain large doses of caffeine (as much as 80 mg), sugar and other legal stimulants like guarana and ginseng. When compared to the 37mg of caffeine in a Mountain Dew or the 23mg in a Coca-Cola Classic, it is clear that energy drinks pack a big punch.

In November of 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted adverse-event reports for two more energy drinks: 40 illnesses and five deaths linked to Monster Energy, and 13 illnesses and two lasting disabilities linked to Rockstar Energy. The FDA report detailed the events suffered by users of 5-Hour, Monster, and Rockstar energy drinks. (Webmd)  These include:

  • Deaths due to heart attack or suicide linked to 5-Hour Energy
  • A miscarriage linked to 5-Hour Energy
  • Convulsions, life-threatening fear, deafness, and hemorrhage linked to 5-Hour Energy
  • Deaths due to heart attack or loss of consciousness linked to Monster Energy drink
  • Hospitalization due to irregular heartbeat, severe diarrhea, migraine, psychotic disorder, heart attack, and/or vomiting linked to Monster Energy drink
  • Disability from irregular heartbeat or stroke linked to Rockstar Energy drink
  • Hospitalization due to psychotic disorder, increased heart rate, or loss of consciousness linked to Rockstar Energy drink

There are also alcoholic energy drinks that are in the market that children are getting their hands on that look similar to the non-alcoholic energy drinks. Examples of these dangerous drinks are Four Loko, Joose and Sparks. The marketing on the television and on the internet use fun or dramatic names, messages and colorful graphics that attract young people.

Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages (CABs) also pose a risk to teenagers and young adults who may not fully recognize the seriousness of mixing caffeine and alcohol. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that these energy drinks “are very popular among youth and are regularly consumed by 31 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds and 34 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds.”

The CDC also reports that, “When alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, a popular practice among youth, the caffeine in these drinks can mask the depressant effects of alcohol. At the same time, caffeine has no effect on the metabolism of alcohol by the liver and thus does not reduce breath alcohol concentrations or reduce the risk of alcohol-attributable harms.” (Ferreira SE, Tulio de Mello M, Pompeia S, Oliveria de Souza-Formigoni ML. Effects of energy drink ingestion on alcohol intoxication. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2006;30(4):598-605.

In the short-term, consumption of energy drinks can boost the heart rate and blood pressure (sometimes causing palpitations), dehydrate the body and, like other stimulants, prevent sleep. Energy drinks should not be used while exercising or to enhance athletic performance, as the combination of fluid loss from sweating and the diuretic quality of the caffeine can leave the user severely dehydrated. Additional health risks include increased anxiety, panic attacks, headaches, sleep deprivation, and stomach aches. (Marin Institute, 2007)

According to the NCAA Banned-Drug Classes, use of caffeine (guarana) is prohibited, as it is considered to be a stimulant. Any individual with a urine concentration that exceeds 15 micrograms/ml is considered to be ‘positive.’ It is worthy to note that “the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not strictly regulate the supplement industry; therefore purity and safety of nutritional dietary supplements cannot be guaranteed. Impure supplements may lead to a positive NCAA drug test”. 

Members of Putnam County CTC Coalition are available if you have any questions or would like for us to do a presentation to your organization on this or any other substance abuse trends that affect our children. Please call 845-225-4646, ext. 13 if you have any questions. Please visit and join the Putnam CTC Coalition on Facebook by searching “Putnam County Communities That Care – NY” or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/PutnamCTCNY or call 845-225-4646.

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