Energy drinks are not something that most people think of when they hear the word ‘addiction’, but it would seem as though energy drink addiction is an ever-increasing problem and one that many health experts are concerned about.

Energy drinks are laden with sugar and contain caffeine, which is the main addictive ingredient. They promise to deliver energy and alertness and are packaged in attractive colours and designs to make them appealing to the younger generation. However, there are a number of concerns as to the safety of these drinks. In fact, as energy drink addiction continues to increase, one school in Scotland has taken the decision to ban the beverage.

Detrimental Effect on Health

Forfar Academy has taken the brave step to ban energy drinks, claiming that these have an adverse effect on the health of pupils and impact on their ability to study. With many students arriving at school swigging on these caffeine-filled drinks, and one pupil ending up in hospital as a result, school officials have written to parents to inform them that energy drinks will no longer be permitted on school premises.

Melvyn Lynch, the head teacher at the academy, said that pupils as young as eleven were becoming addicted to energy drinks and were suffering behavioural problems because of it. He said, “Unfortunately now a lot of youngsters have started drinking these, even at primary school age. The amount of caffeine has quite an alarmingly detrimental effect on young people’s systems.”

He said children are developing addictions to these drinks, and the effect is that the kids are becoming irritable and agitated. He also pointed out that the behaviour of these children can often be quite combative and challenging. Mr Lynch added, “Some of the kids are saying they get a hit from it, not like drinking something sugary like cola. I will sometimes see children coming in drinking these things in the morning.”

Health Risks

The letter to parents highlighted the dangers of energy drinks as well as the issues the school was having with recent exclusions and the hospitalisation of a student while on a trip to France. He said in the letter, “These drinks, such as Rock Star and Monster, pose a health risk to our young people due to the ingredients they contain. Energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and sugar. In a small 250 ml can, there is typically 80 mg of caffeine.”

He wanted to let parents know that there is often extra caffeine in these drinks, hidden in the ingredient guarana. It means that energy drinks often contain more caffeine than people are aware of. As mentioned above, energy drinks are also full of sugar, and the dangers of excessive sugar consumption have also been hitting the headlines recently, with many people calling for the government to impose a sugar tax. Some cans of energy drink contain as many as fifteen teaspoons of sugar.

Mr Lynch pointed out that the aim of the ban was to highlight the risks involved with energy drinks and to get students to change their behaviour. He believes that those who market energy drinks should target adult customers instead of younger children and teenagers.

Signs of an Energy Drink Addiction

Energy drink addiction usually starts when a person builds up a tolerance to the effects of the caffeine in the product. As the body gets used to the effects, it will adapt until the individual no longer gets the desired effect unless they up the amount. This means they will begin to drink more and more energy drinks and, before long, they will become addicted. The affected person might experience withdrawal symptoms when they do not have one. Common signs of an energy drink addiction include:

  • feeling as though you need an energy drink as soon as you wake up
  • drinking a large number of energy drinks every day
  • feeling irritable and agitated if you do not have an energy drink
  • spending large amounts of money on your energy drink habit
  • drinking energy drinks with almost all meals
  • mixing energy drinks with alcohol
  • being unproductive at work and unable to concentrate unless you have had an energy drink
  • experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue and headaches when you have not had an energy drink
  • you need to drink more energy drinks to get the same effects, or you have noticed that you are not getting the energy you desire no matter how much energy drink you consume because you have become tolerant to caffeine.

There are many negative consequences of an energy drink addiction, especially in terms of health. Because energy drinks are so full of sugar, they often lead to substantial weight gain, which in turn can lead to problems such as obesity and diabetes. They are also damaging to the body’s organs, especially the liver; excessive consumption can lead to an enlarged liver, similar to that seen in those with alcoholism.

There is also the issue of money, with the cost of buying so many energy drinks causing financial stress to some sufferers. And those who are not getting the desired effects may switch to more powerful stimulants in order to get the energy they crave.

Source: STV News