Energy Drink Abuse Among Teens and Children

Are teens and kids abusing and overdosing on energy drinks as often as the media portrays?

problems with teens and energy drinks

Daily, it seems there are news stories proclaiming the dangers of energy drinks for teens and about politicians or government agencies calling for the banning of energy drinks and their regulation.

However, is energy drink abuse really the huge problem it’s proclaimed to be? Let’s take a look at what the data and latest research says about energy drink overdose among teens and children.

Energy Drink Overdose and The American Association of Poison Control Centers

If you’re not familiar with the The American Association of Poison Control Centers, they are the governmental agency responsible for collecting the information on all the ways people are poisoned each year.

They publish a very detailed annual report documenting reported cases during that given year.

Their latest report is for the year 2013. Let’s look at how many people reported overdose from energy drinks in 2013 and compare it to the previous year.

Single Exposures Reported (Energy drinks)20122013
Total Reported1,6351,685
5 yrs. or less828879
6-12 yrs.171173
13-19 yrs.260246
20 yrs. or over328343
Accidental1,0881,180
Intentional323272
Treated at Hospital345368
Major reactions17
Moderate Reactions155146
Deaths00

The above data is for single exposures only and includes energy drinks with multiple sources of caffeine, but not in combination with alcohol.

A recent study conducted by the American Heart Association found that between the years of 2010-2013, 40% of all the energy drink exposure calls to the poison control centers involved children age 6 or under. Src.

According to the AAPCC total energy drink exposures have been on the decrease since 2012. (This is any call that mentions any type of energy drink).

energy drink exposures reported

Source: AAPCC

 

Energy Drink Overdose: Overrated and Over-reported?

Looking at the above data, we can draw a few conclusions.

  1. Energy drink overdose is happening and causing health problems for teens and children.
  2. Energy drink overdose isn’t as common as one might think. Out of the tens of millions of teenagers living the the USA only 431 (2012) adverse reactions were reported to the AAPCC.
  3. While the problem seems to be hyped up by the media, we still should make efforts to educate and warn teens about the potential dangers of energy drinks.
  4. The highest number of energy drink overdose reports occurred with children age 5 or under.

Because caffeine is being put into products that are especially appealing to teens (i.e. sweet, fruity beverages like energy drinks), teens can pretty quickly consume too much caffeine without realizing it.  No one would argue that other substances are far more dangerous, but other drugs aren’t specifically marketed to the younger demographic either like energy drinks are.

The Journal of Pediatrics who studied caffeine overdose reports from 2007, concluded the following:

Energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit, and many ingredients are understudied and not regulated. The known and unknown pharmacology of agents included in such drinks, combined with reports of toxicity, raises concern for potentially serious adverse effects in association with energy drink use. Their Study

I still think education is a better tool than legislation or regulation. Parents and teens need to be informed and educated about using caffeine responsibly in any form whether it be energy drinks, coffee, or caffeine supplements.

Since 2009, there have been some reported cases of death related to energy drink/shot consumption and the subject is still receiving a lot of media attention. Recently, a survey conducted in Australia showed that teen athletes are abusing energy drinks and No-Doz to help them compete better at sporting events. src.

Energy Drink Abuse Can Cause Heart Problems

The Canadian Journal of Cardiology recently published a comprehensive study that looked at the incidences of cardiac events after energy drink consumption among teens.

They found that energy drink abuse among teens did cause increased risk of cardiac events especially in those with underlying heart conditions and there were even some cases of energy drinks causing changes in heart rhythm among teens with healthy hearts. This risk increases when the child engages in sports or exercise.

The researchers therefore have the following recommendations for safe use of Energy Drinks among this age group.

  1. Do not consume more than 1 can (250 mL) of an energy drink per day (1 Standard Red Bull).
  2. Avoid ED consumption before or during sports practice.
  3. Individuals with diagnosed cardiovascular anomalies should consult cardiologists before drinking EDs.
  4. Do not combine ED consumption and alcohol or other drugs.
  5. Parents should be taught potential adverse effects related to ED consumption.
  6. Parents and Schools should provide continual advice against overconsumption/abuse of EDs.

The Complete Study Here.

Case Study

Sometimes it can only take one energy drink to cause problems for some teens.

A 17-year-old male patient presented to the emergency department with sudden onset of palpitations after drinking high caffeine preparations at the gym. He had no relevant medical history or family history of sudden cardiac death. He denied any use of regular medications, alcohol or illicit drugs.

He was found to have a heart condition that was triggered by the high caffeine in his pre-workout energy drink.  He was unaware of his heart condition prior.  Src.

Energy Drink Use Related to Depression and Substance Abuse in Teens

energy overdose teensA recent study conducted by The University of Waterloo and Dalhousie University in Canada found that teens who consume energy drinks are also more as risk for developing depression and substance abuse than teens who never drink energy drinks. Src.

Researchers used the results of a 8,210 participant survey to come to their conclusions, but it is unclear whether energy drinks are causing more depression and substance abuse or those prone to depression and substance abuse also choose energy drinks as a coping device.

A more recent study published in The Neuropsychopharmacology Journal found that teens that consume caffeine are more inclined to be addicted to drugs like cocaine as adults.

The University of Colorado researchers discovered that when caffeine is consumed by those with developing brains, it permanently alters brain chemistry causing those individuals to receive more pleasure from cocaine than one otherwise would.

They Could Also Cause Hyperactivity in Teens

A study published by Academic Pediatrics reported that energy drinks and sugary beverages are linked to hyperactive behavior in teens and children.

The study authors reported the following results:

Students reporting consumption of energy drinks were 66% more likely to be at risk for hyperactivity/inattention after adjusting for number of drinks, other types of drinks consumed, and other potential confounders.”

While this was just a small self-reporting type of survey study it does warrant more research concerning the energy drink and hyperactivity issue.

Young people will always tend to do/consume things that aren’t good for them and this will continue far after energy drinks are yesterday’s news and history shows us that villainizing a product usually only makes kids want it more, so perhaps teaching responsibility may be better than regulation.

What do you think? Should energy drinks be off limits for teens? 

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  • Required

    @cableguy

    I think that if two energy drinks made you hallucinate and take violent dumps you should consult a doctor, at the tender age of 15 the worst I’v had is discoloured urine after a frankly foolish amount of monster, and that was much more then two.

  • Dre

    Your findings are biased and not scholarly in any way, therefore they are highly unreliable. Why are they biased? Because you compare Caffeine to Tylenol. While both are addictive drugs, Tylenol is a medicine, and Energy Drinks have more caffeine than coffee sometimes. There have been fatalities due to overdose on Energy Drinks. You shouldn’t compare a medicine to a energy supplement, that’s just bad logic.

  • Brittany

    @Dre

    He’s just comparing a small issue to a bigger issue, however biased, still true facts.

  • Andy

    How about the fact that teens aren’t haven’t developed years of tolerance to caffeine, and are therefore more prone to the affects, resulting in an inability to concentrate or sit still? Hardly a condition for learning. If they wanna drink it at the weekend and have some fun, why not, but I get kids wandering into class after drinking it because it’s cool. What a waste.

  • KJ

    @Required

    lol i have drank 6 monsters in 1 24 hour period of time and my worst symptom was jack shit, nothing happened to me. I am almost 15 years old I did this right after I turned 14.

  • Lena

    A friend of mine accidentally overdosed on caffeine when she was fourteen – it freaked her out really badly, and she apparently was hallucinating. I think that she drank five Monsters to get to that point.

    I also need to say that I think energy drinks are far more popular now than they were in 2009.

  • jennifer

    careful! next thing you know we’ll have to have a prescription just to get tylenol! why can’t people accept personal responsibility for controlling themselves and paying attention to what their kids are up to instead of demanding useless government regulation of trivial things like caffeine? seriously people. if we spent half the time concentrating on issues of substance as we did on trivial nonsense like caffeine regulation, we might actually get somewhere as a country.

  • David

    People are stupid. If you drink it it’s your choice and nobody is going to stop you just because of the popularity of doing it. If you start having problems after a couple of energy drinks you should probably just realize this is a problem and cut yourself off so that you don’t do that again. Its just a matter of personal responsibility

  • Jackie

    @Andy, maybe they’re not just drinking it because they think it’s cool. When I was in high school, I had a schedule that required a lot of caffeine. I was in accelerated classes and I played 3 sports a year. I drank a ton of caffeine my senior year, when I was taking 3 AP courses. We put a lot of pressure on college bound students, so they don’t have a lot of time to sleep, especially if parents expect them to maintain a social life as well. I took 26 credits last semester (and I’m a microbiology major) and it still didn’t compare to the lack of sleep in my junior and senior year. Most of my HS teachers recognized that a lot of us couldn’t function properly without caffeine in the mornings and would let us drink it in class.

  • Monster addict

    I think that energy drinks are one of the best things on earth, the only death I’ve heard of that was related to energy drinks is two years ago a kid drank too much Monster and then got his heart pumping even more by playing rugby, it stopped his heart, but Monster is still thriving.

  • James

    Wow, I am not surprised to read the comments to this report. You must keep in mind that this report only contains one year’s worth of statistics. The real question is: Why are so many people taking pain killers in the first place? As an educator and having worked with youth most of my life, I would have to say that the side effects from caffeine all result in some form of pain within the bones, joints, muscles, stomach, heart, brain…etc. The list is quite lengthy. Along those same lines never before in the history of mankind has so much caffeine been consumed at one time! In fact, more people consume caffeine on a daily basis than any drug that is known to mankind (You can google “caffeine consumption” and read plenty of articles related to it!).
    The true statistic is the number of deaths caused because of the side effects of caffeine – experiencing pain of some kind which naturally results in the consumption of painkillers (Tylenol included)!!! We need to question: Why is it that so many people consume painkillers? Well, they are experiencing pain aren’t they? So, where is so much pain coming from? I would have to say the number one cause of it is caffeine! Even though pain cannot be traced “caffeine consumption” can. With the increase in caffeine comes the increase in pain as well as the increase in the need for painkillers. The central nervous system is certainly very precious to the functioning and stability of every vital organ in the body. Crystalline xanthinen alkaloid is a drug that acts directly on the nervous system, in nature it causes insects to become paralyzed and honestly in high enough doses can be deadly, not to say we are consuming high enough doses – we are not as small as insects.
    So, think about it is caffeine a drug or not? If you can answer “yes – it is” to this question. Then, understand that there are side effects and even though the drug itself may not kill you – the side effects certainly can. If you don’t believe me read/listen to the news and look at the controversy. Honestly, legislators are torn between public safety and the outcry from people who have been harmed from misuse of valuable medications, often confusing addiction with pain as a disease. Yes, even pain can be addictive!!! I am an educator and do like to site sources: (Please take the time to read them)
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/06/12/154836399/doctors-have-trouble-keeping-up-with-painkiller-abusers
    http://articles.latimes.com/2012/apr/05/news/la-ol-painkiller-addiction-epidemic-20120405
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/inner-pulse/201105/painkillers-and-you
    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db81.pdf

  • kirsty

    Im 20 and have at least 4 cans of energy drink a day . But they are the cheap energy drinks. I started drinkin them 2 years ago. I have a son and i drank them because i struggled with keepin myself awake and motivated . Being a single mum is tuff. I feel breathless alot and suffer with migrains and dizzyness. Iv tried to cut down but it feels impossible if anything i drink more because 4 cans nd 2 bottles a day isnt workin anymore . I would love advice on were to get help with stoppin drinkin energy drinks . I live in the UK

  • jo

    @kirsty:
    A good way to stay awake is to not go to bed too late. Also drink lots of fluids and slowly take less caffeine.

  • my name is private

    I’d just like to point out that “energy drinks” were originally made to be for medicinal purposes. So I think this is fair. I think it’s clear enough to all of us that they are not good for our health. When you put them on a scale of good to bad, they fall happily in the crap section with most of the rest of the “stuff” you consume on a daily basis. Cushioned right between MacDonald’s, coffee, cigarettes and alcohol. Give them all up and I might pretend to care about your opinion.

  • Annie

    I have migraine headaches I have since childhood, and its surprisingly easy to accidentally take too much medicine like Tylenol I also think a lot of people with pain self medicate with too much OTC medicine thinking they can avoid a doctor, or do it because the doctor treatment isn’t working so they say “well lets try taking more pills at a time to avoid seeing the doctor” or “ill do this till I can see the doctor” I’ve done that, it got to the point I was getting rebound headaches because I was doubling the dose of excedrin migrane , I did it a few times before and luckily it was never bad enough that I was like hospitalized but one time when I was like a junior or senior in high school like 17-18 years old I went to school terribly sick because I tried taking too much medicine before school due to the fact I wasn’t holding it down and just assumed it wasn’t in my system and I wanted to get rid of the migraine, it started out I took something my doctor prescribed me I got sick, didn’t wanna take more so I reached for a bottle of OTC pain medicine like aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol, took 2 more pills, got sick again took a few more pills because I just assumed it wasn’t in my system long enough because I threw it up I don’t know how many times I repeated this but suddenly I was a whole different kind of sick. You don’t know how much actually gets into your system and suddenly it hits you. I was dizzy I could barely sit in my chair, I felt horrible. I wasn’t trying to take too much I just couldn’t tell how much was actually in my body because I kept throwing it up.

  • someone who likes energy drink

    If someone sees this message I’m just asking if the website can update these statistics if you can thank you.

  • Ted

    We are always trying to update our website with the latest stats. I’ll add this one to the list. I assume you are referring to the poison control center stats?

  • Falcon D. Stormvoice

    I assume so too, as that’s what I’d like to see updated information for.

  • Falcon D. Stormvoice

    There’s obviously little to no risk to adults who consume energy drinks. Especially a low sugar variant.

  • poo

    Drink water its free

Last Modified: September 28, 2015

References

  • Source: The American Association of Poison Control Centers
  • Seifert, S. M., Schaechter, J. L., Hershorin, E. R., & Lipshultz, S. E. (2011). Health effects of energy drinks on children, adolescents, and young adults. Pediatrics, peds-2009.
  • Azagba, S., Langille, D., & Asbridge, M. (2014). An emerging adolescent health risk: caffeinated energy drink consumption patterns among high school students. Preventive medicine, 62, 54-59.
  • O'Neill, C. E., Levis, S. C., Schreiner, D. C., Amat, J., Maier, S. F., & Bachtell, R. K. (2014). Effects of Adolescent Caffeine Consumption on Cocaine Sensitivity. Neuropsychopharmacology.
  • Schwartz, D. L., Gilstad-Hayden, K., Carroll-Scott, A., Grilo, S. A., McCaslin, C., Schwartz, M., & Ickovics, J. R. (2015). Energy Drinks and Youth Self-Reported Hyperactivity/Inattention Symptoms. Academic Pediatrics.
  • Sanchis-Gomar, F., Pareja-Galeano, H., Cervellin, G., Lippi, G., & Earnest, C. P. (2015). Energy Drink Overconsumption in Adolescents: Implications for Arrhythmias and Other Cardiovascular Events. Canadian Journal of Cardiology.
  • http://www.aapcc.org/alerts/energy-drinks/
  • https://aapcc.s3.amazonaws.com/pdfs/annual_reports/2013_NPDS_Annual_Report.pdf