Energy drinks pose health risks

By Tom Nordlie • Published: January 14th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Caffeine is a drug, but not the sort that usually alarms parents.

That may change.

In the past decade, heavily caffeinated energy drinks have become popular with young people.

In 2006 the U-S retail market was estimated at five-point-four billion dollars.

Energy drinks look and sometimes taste like soda pop. But some brands are so potent that a single container packs the caffeine of ten or fifteen cans of cola.

And a review article published recently in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence suggests energy drinks pose health risks.

For example, high doses of caffeine can cause nervousness, irritability and rapid heartbeat. Youngsters who don’t habitually consume caffeine are more susceptible to these effects.

Caffeine can also provide a burst of energy that’s downright exhilarating. Users who enjoy that rush may be tempted to try illegal stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine.

Even those who never move on to other drugs can end up caffeine-dependent.

The article asserts that the U-S government should require energy drinks to carry warning labels.

Would that help reduce the risks?


At least it would put energy drinks on the same footing as caffeine pills, which must include information on their caffeine content and proper use.

Then again, energy drinks are typically marketed to young men. Maybe it’s naïve to expect those consumers to exercise caution.

Still, they should know the risks.

As the old saying goes, let the buyer beware.

Or in this case, let the buyer be wary of being wired.