The Deadly Combination of Teens and Energy Drinks


Energy drinks seem like a tasty way to get a little boost during the midday slump but can cause serious harm or even death if used inappropriately. 

In today’s busy lifestyle, many people are trying to find more hours in the day. Staying up late and waking up early means many of us are dragging through the afternoon lull. 

Energy drinks and shots, with their attractive packaging and promises seem like a great way to get a little caffeinated boost. Especially to teens. Unfortunately, energy drinks are the cause of many sudden cardiac deaths in young people. The Center for Science in the Public Interest asked the FDA for better labeling on energy drinks after documents linked more deaths to energy drinks. 

Teens and Sleep 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep patterns in teens shift to stay up later. Many teens are unable to fall asleep until 11 pm but still require 8 to 10 hours to become well rested. This means that many teens are not getting adequate amounts of sleep during the school year. One study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.

This lack of rest may lead to the use of caffienated beverages to get through the day. The American Academy of Pediatrics says kids should not consume energy drinks, Despite this a study into the beverage habits of young people showed an increase in energy drink consumption over regular soda pop. 

Caffeine and Kids

Energy drinks are not recommended for consumption by children and yet energy drinks are the second most consumed dietary supplement in North America after vitamins and supplements by teens and young children.

Most energy drinks have between 70 and 240 mg of caffine and energy shots have 113 to 200 mg of caffeine. In comparision a 12 oz can of soda usually has about 35 grams of caffeine and a cup of coffee has about 100.  Almost one third of teens between 12 and 17 years of age drink energy drinks regularly.

Dangers of Caffeine Consumption in Children

Courtesy of the National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health

  • Consuming large amounts of caffeine may cause serious heart and vessel problems such as heart rhythym disturbances and increases in heart rate and blood pressure. 
  • Caffeine may also be disruptive to children’s still developing cardiovascular and nervous systems
  • Insomnia, anxiety, digestive problems and dehydration may also be associated with caffeine.
  • Caffeine can pass through the placenta and may affect a developing fetus
  • Excessive energy drink consumption by teens may increase risk taking behavior and disrupt normal sleep patterns
  • A single 16 oz container of energy drink may contain between 54 and 62 grams of added sugar, which is in excess of the recommended daily intake. 

Energy Drinks and Alcohol

Energy drinks become much more risky when paired with alcohol. In 2010, the FDA removed seven caffienated alcohilic beverages from the market. They stated they were not found to be ‘safe’.

About 25 percent of college students mix energy drinks with alcohol. They are more likely to binge drink than those who do not.

This is likely  because energy drinks mask the symptoms of the alcohol. This can make the individual feel more ‘alert’ and less inebriated than they actually are. It can also increase the risk of injury.

 Drinkers who mix alcohol with energy drinks are more likely to report :

In 2011, 42 percent of all energy drink emergency room visits involved mixed the energy drinks with alcohol or drugs. 

Between 2007 and 2011 the number of energy drink-related visits to the hospital doubled. One in ten of those visits resulted in hospitalization.

According to the CDC, those between the ages of 15 and 23 who consume energy drinks mixed with alcohol are four times more likely to binge drink.

Dr. Richard Honaker of Your Doctors Online says it is dangerous to mix alcohol and energy drinks because they have both been linked to heart rhythm disturbances.


Guarana is included in many energy drinks and contains caffeine as well as theophylline and theobromine. Therefore the addition of guarana increases the amount of caffeine in the beverage or shot. 

Guarana seeds may contain four to six times more caffeine than coffee beans. 

70% of Guarana produced worldwide is used by the beverage industry. 

In high doses Guarana can produce side effects similar to excessive caffeine intake such as: 

  • Heart palpatations
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia 
  • Headaches 
  • Seizures
  • Upset Stomach

Guarana may have some health benefits such as:

Dr. Richard Honaker says that when added to an energy drink the health effects of guarana are void. 

“With its addition to an energy drink it neutralizes its health benefits and makes it neither healthy nor unhealthy to consume.” 

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