I love my cup of coffee in the morning. In fact, I imagine I’m slightly addicted to that morning dose of caffeine. But what I’m hearing about energy drinks is more than just a java jolt to get your day off to a rousing start. The latest craze is to gulp down an energy drink, which packs three to five times the amount of caffeine as you’d find in a regular soft drink. Now, however, researchers are questioning the safety of these caffeine-loaded drinks, especially when they are used and abused by children and teenagers.
A report in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics found that almost half of the 5,448 caffeine overdoses in 2007 involved people younger than 19 years old. And even more alarming, the American Association of Poison Control Centers says one quarter of the 300 energy drink poisonings so far this year involve children under age 6! What are parents thinking! Poisoning symptoms include seizures, cardiac abnormalities and mood changes.
Germany has been keeping records on this issue longer than we have in the United States. That country has documented effects that include liver damage, kidney failure, respiratory disorders, psychotic conditions, cardiac arrhythmias, heart failure and death. As a parent, this is enough to convince me that these drinks are not a good idea – period.
Rick Spiller, director of the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center, says he has similar concerns. “The biggest concern of course is children.” But he adds, “Teenagers also use energy drinks along with alcohol wrongly, thinking that they can drink longer and stay more sober.”
Regardless energy drinks are a booming market. They are the fastest growing segment in the U.S. beverage market, with sales expected to top $9 billion this year. And teenagers and young adults are the primary targets. Parents will have to go on the counter-offensive to convince their kids that these drinks are not safe – the buzz they produce may be a serious warning instead of a wake-up call.