What’s in Your Drink?
The consequences of the energy drink habit are becoming more and more concerning. Discipline problems in schools have been associated with energy drinks to such an extent that some schools are taking measures to ban them. But the potential health problems are even more alarming. The herbal concoctions and the caffeine in energy drinks have proven deadly for some.
Energy drinks such as AMP, NOS, Red Bull, Monster and Rockstar are now a 5.4 billion dollar-a-year industry. Over 500 energy drinks have come on the market in 2007 and 2008 alone. Who is feeding this giant consumer beast? The typical buyer is a teen or twenty-something youth, often a student. This is no cheap habit – many of these drinks cost several dollars each, and most of the product users do not just drink them occasionally. They use them regularly to stay awake, feel a buzz, or to get going in the morning.
The consequences of the energy drink habit are becoming more and more concerning. Discipline problems in schools have been associated with energy drinks to such an extent that some schools are taking measures to ban them. But the potential health problems are even more alarming. The herbal concoctions and the caffeine in energy drinks have proven deadly for some. Even the relatively mild energy drink Red Bull has been associated with death, as in the example of Chloe Leach of the UK, who consumed four cans and an alcoholic drink also containing caffeine and then collapsed of a sudden heart failure at 3 a.m. one morning last September. As her case illustrates, energy drinks are known to be very dangerous when consumed with alcohol, other herbal supplements, or anything else containing caffeine, or if consumed in too large a volume.
One example with thousands more like it: in February 2007, several students at Doherty High School in Colorado Springs, Colo., became seriously ill after drinking Spike Shooter and had to be sent to the emergency room. The incident was so severe that all 224 7-Eleven stores in Colorado pulled the product from their shelves, and it was banned at the school. Many energy drink cans bear warning labels that they are not to be consumed by people under the age of 16, or that users should not drink more than half a can at once until they know how the drink will affect them. The next fall, the newspaper staff of Coronado High School in the same school district decided to conduct a study of the effects of energy drinks.
With a trained nurse present, the newspaper staff drank a variety of energy drinks under controlled conditions. All of them reported alarming effects. Their heart rates and blood pressure skyrocketed, many felt physically ill, they suffered signs of dehydration like stomach cramping, and they were unable to sit still or concentrate on simple tasks. One student, a tall, thin female, experienced such a high spike of blood pressure and heart rate after only half a can that the nurse had to stop the experiment. They also experienced a strong crash after the initial buzz effects wore off.
The energy from energy drinks is typically created by megadoses of sugar and caffeine in combination with various herbal supplements that can cause varying unexpected reactions in the human body. A typical 12 oz serving of brewed coffee has 200 mg of caffeine, tea 80 mg, and soda around 30-40 mg. By comparison, some energy drinks reportedly have as much as 1400% the caffeine of a same-sized serving of soda. To put it in perspective, for Pepsi-Cola, the average person would achieve a near-certainly lethal dose of caffeine by drinking around 270 cans, although drinking so much would likely be fatal sooner for other reasons. But only 29 cans of Boo Koo Energy would be enough for death by caffeine overdose. How does your favorite beverage compare? Find out here. Although few people would attempt to drink that much, mounting data has shown people can become seriously ill by drinking less than even one serving. Further, caffeine is an addictive substance that gradually requires larger quantities to be consumed for the same level of stimulation and has painful withdrawal symptoms.
The energy drink craze is just one of the latest ways people abuse their bodies looking for a high or a way to compensate for time mismanagement or stress. The shortcut to energy creates more stress and physical health problems than the payoff warrants. Further, the tendency of people to become addicted and to drink them seeking a high sends up the red flag of substance abuse. While perhaps for a healthy person a very occasional energy drink may be relatively harmless, a regular habit of energy drinks could fall under the veil of suspicion of even being permitted in Islam due to the harmful health effects and characteristics of drug abuse. So students, as you study for your midterms, think twice about pulling an all-nighter with 3-4 cans of energy to keep you going – you’ll end up doing more harm than good!