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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  • Shylittlebirdie

    I drunk a can of monster I think it was the doctor or somthing last night and I’m really shaken and feel sick I think I’m I’ll .

  • Bobby

    Im a 16yrs old female. And I drink 1 energy drink everyday. Atleast once a day, when super thirsty, i drink 2 bottle. This energy drink was already added in my lifestyle. I feel incomplete when i dont drink in a day. But i heard from one of my friends that its dangerous. What possible decease will i encounter?

  • Hannah

    Hello. My name is Hannah and I just want to tell all of you this is a real issue. In a freshman in highschool and one of my friends is addicted to energy drinks. The other day she drank 3 and a half energy drinks and at lunch she wasnt acting herself at all, was super shaky, couldn’t see well at all due to blurred vision. And so on… I am reading up on this issue now an from what I am reading is that if she doesn’t stop… It might be too late. So people, please listen… Energy drinks do have effects! I worry for the health of my friend every minute that she is living… She said that she would rather die happy than give up energy drinks. 🙁

  • bolvark

    Odds are you probably wont have any serious issues. only think thats likely is caffeine tolerance.
    the volume is well within non-dangerous limits and you don’t appear to be spiking in intake volume too much.

  • bolvark

    unless you tapping into your neighbors hose or porting it home from work its not. while tap water is cheap almost to the point of free cheap is not free.

  • bolvark

    so basically your saying that you will only listen to opinion that reinforce your own?. that is quite mature.

  • bolvark

    other section of this site had lots of good date on your problem.
    i doubt you can find a facility caffeine issues are often dismissed lightly.

  • bolvark

    the issue could also be that people learn that painkillers remove pain and begin to use them for minor issues. their is plenty of methods to manage pain other than pills most just dont bother with them.

  • bolvark

    Also important to note that how long it takes one to consume an energy drink affects how it will affect you. also the situation in which you drink it makes a difference. i once drank a venom in 10 minutes then waited another 10 waiting on a secret meeting with my gf and my heart rate went up to 160 no other side affects. however drinking two in the last over the last 8 hours playing runescape as resulted in a heart-rate rise of about 5bpm.

    also i like how people feel bad after the first sip and blame it on caffine
    it doesnt work that fast.

  • Emily Mahlmeister

    im 13 female i have any where from 2-6 energy drinks a day i feel bad if i don’t have them but when i do my heart is out of my chest and i get a major head ace I’ve been doing it this way for a bout a year.. ik i should stop cause i do so many other things that I’m trying to stop at the same time I’m a total wreak at the moment but my brother and friends and everyone else are really trying to help but I’m really stubborn and i sneak around and spend money like crazy just so i can get the energy drinks

  • Dairion Silverstone

    What if you can have energy drinks without all the underlined side-effects, would you still feel bad about have 2-6 energy drinks?
    or what if you had one drink and it gives you all natural energy for the day. which means no need to have another till tomorrow if you so choose

  • Dairion Silverstone

    What if you can have energy drinks without all the underlined side-effects, would you still feel bad about have 2-6 energy drinks?
    or what if you had one drink and it gives you all natural energy for the day. which means no need to have another till tomorrow if you so choose, do you think that would be great?

  • Marco

    I’m 14. I have 3 projects and 8 assignments all due tomorrow and I’m planning on staying up all night getting them done, would it like kill me to drink an energy shot?

  • Alynna

    I am 14 and I drink about three RedBulls and two Supermans a day. I cat remember the last time I slept

  • Alynna

    I am always very hyper and dizzy.

  • Ted

    If you want to have a happy and healthy future, I would advise you to give this habit up and start sleeping. Sleep is vital for your developing brain.

  • Damien

    I’m 14 and I have tried a drink called “Red bull” and “Rip it” But I’m nervous that something bad would happen me, If i try another one, anyone have any ideas for me?

  • Joclynn

    I’m 13 and I just drank a monster to wake me up and I guess I drank it to fast because my chest hurts hurts so bad, and I’m so tired. Also I’m so short of breath I can’t stand up. What should I do?? Plz tell me what can help me. I’m scared

  • Ted

    When things like this happen, you should really tell your parent right away.

  • Gwen

    If you think something bad will happen then maybe you shouldn’t try it but it’s up to you to choose.

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