For years I’ve been hearing that energy drinks are bad for you, but that never stopped me from consuming them on a regular basis throughout college and especially after grad school when I worked overnight at a psychiatric hospital and felt like I needed to be extra alert at all times.
I personally have never had a bad experience with energy drinks, although once I did take an Extra Strength 5 Hour Energy shot before working out and during my workout felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. I never did that again.
Recently there has been a lot of attention given to teens drinking energy drinks, including Anais Fournier, who was 14 and drank two 24-ounce cans of an energy drink and then died six days later after going into cardiac arrest and a coma.
Her death was officially considered to be from cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity.
Drinking those two 24 ounce cans, she had consumed 480 milligrams of caffeine, about five times the recommended limit by the American Academy of Pediatrics and about as much as drinking 14 cans of Coca Cola.
I never really gave a lot of thought to this topic until yesterday when one of my teenage clients came into my office with a huge 24-ounce can of Monster energy drink and suddenly I found myself being a bit concerned for her.
Could drinking energy drinks really have killed the young lady mentioned above and potentially others that are under investigation? Do they pose a potential risk to the millions of teenagers who drink them on a daily basis?
Caffeine is the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world. Most teens I know who consume energy drinks do it either to have enough energy needed to make it through the day, to stay up studying, to have increased energy while participating in a physically demanding activity, while partying, and to alter their mood.
Most teens are unaware of the amount of caffeine they are consuming, or don’t care because they think it’s harmless, when in fact it can be harmful if too much caffeine is consumed too quickly and is paired with a pre-existing medical condition.
Many teens are unaware that they have cardiac problems and are at risk for cardiac arrest, thus their caffeine intake should be limited.
Caffeine overdoses have increasingly been on the rise over the past few years with emergency rooms seeing over 12,000 cases last year.
Many researchers believe there is no reason for kids to ingest more caffeine then what is naturally found in the things they already consume, stating that caffeine mixing with the sugar often found in energy drinks can have bad effects on blood pressure and can lead to cardiac problems.
Most teens I know are more at risk when they are out with friends, partying or when they drink energy drinks just before playing a sport.
Parents should monitor their children’s intake of caffeine and how quickly they consume drinks with caffeine in them.