Teenagers Drinking Energy Drinks Lead to Health Problems

As junior Ben Teter sits in his fifth period class, he cracks open his first Monster of the day. This one is Mango Loco, his favorite. Like many teenagers, Ben Teter is addicted to energy drinks. Little do they know, energy drinks can be dangerous.

“I used to like the caffeine, but now I just like the taste,” Teter said.

Not only do energy drinks contain high amounts of sugar and caffeine, but they also have other ingredients like taurine and ginseng, which aren’t regulated by the FDA. They can contain up to 500 milligrams of caffeine, which is five times more than coffee and 10 times more than soda. More than 200 milligrams of caffeine can be dangerous for children and adolescents.

“From a health science perspective, I don’t recommend students to drink it,” Health Science teacher Sara Thenwaura said.

Students are swamped with school, homework, and extracurricular activities. Teens tend not to make sleep their priority so they need energy. Young people would rather get their energy through a candy-flavored drink than a bitter cup of coffee.

“I’m an athlete so my energy is constantly drained,” sophomore Olivia Drummond said. “I’m super busy with sports, school, clubs, family, and homework so I don’t get a lot of sleep to recharge.”

Ingesting that much caffeine causes health problems such as insomnia, increased blood pressure, and heart problems.  The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against giving energy drinks to children. A group of public health experts and doctors urged the FDA to protect children and teens by restricting the amount of caffeine in energy drinks.

“The high amounts of sugar [in energy drinks] can cause insulin spikes that can lead to Type 2 diabetes and other problems in the future.” Dr. Thenwaura said.

Energy drink companies market to adolescents. The drinks come in brightly colored cans and have high-octane names to catch the eye of teens and young adults, who may not yet be coffee drinkers. They also come in large containers, making it simple to consume several servings in one sitting. They also taste good so they are tempting stand-ins for thirst quenchers like water or sports drinks.

“They give me the energy I need and they taste good,” Drummond said. “Soda and juice also taste good, but they don’t wake me up so instead I go to energy drinks.” 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that 20,783 people visited emergency rooms in 2011 for difficulties involving energy drinks. Eleven percent of them were hospitalized. More than 16,000 ER visits each year are linked to energy drinks.

“Fortunately, I don’t see as many students [drinking energy drinks] as I used to a couple years ago because of the health craze in America,” Dr. Thenwaura said. “I see students drinking water instead of soda and these drinks.”