Why some energy drinks amount to living on edge

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Joe Winfield
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Safety Office
The energy drink industry has spread like wildfire, which means energy drinks and the highs they offer are available to pretty much everyone regardless of dangers and side effects. You don't have to be a certain age to buy an energy drink like you do with cigarettes, alcohol or lottery tickets. Even children are getting their hands on them.

Many people can't keep up with the hectic pace of the 21st century, but downing an energy drink or two gives them an extra boost of energy to help get through the day. It also allows them to extend the night long past their regular bedtime. Drinking energy drinks is a way to rebel, without breaking any laws. Adventurous types enjoy the high they get, and anyone can be an adventurous type with the quick, inexpensive, legal and mobile buzz an energy drink offers.

There's a slight element of danger in energy drinks that makes them intriguing, as well. After all, they contain controversial ingredients: guarana, taurine, caffeine, cyanocobalamin, citric acid and ginseng. Even though these are basically harmless when taken in low dosages, studies have shown these ingredients can do major damage to people who don't consume them in moderation. This means too many people are consuming energy drinks in excess for the wrong reasons.

In addition, if people mix a few of these energy drinks with alcohol, they end up feeling downright unstoppable. The binge drinking associated with energy drink cocktails is twice as high because it gives people that untouchable high without the side effects of fatigue and drowsiness while drinking alcohol with juice or soda.

On top of that, our society is one of excess. This has many people believing if one energy drink can give them a good buzz, then drinking many would be an ideal way to sustain a buzz all evening. This might make sense when people are fuelled by a caffeinated high, however, even the manufacturers warn against drinking more than two energy drinks a day. Unfortunately, the dangerous mix of energy drinks and alcohol will often leave people with no idea of how many drinks they've consumed. By then it's a bit late for manufacturers' warnings.

Studies done on energy drinks show the common ingredients - sugar, sodium and caffeine - are dangerous when taken in high dosages for diabetics and people with high or low blood sugar. Even an average person consuming an energy drink with extremely high sugar content can feel like he or she is trapped in a speeding, out-of-control elevator that's crashing to the ground when that sudden drop in insulin levels kicks in.

Think what it would do to a person with underlying heart conditions. The stimulating properties of energy drinks can boost heart rate and blood pressure, sometimes to the point of palpitations.

Even athletes misuse energy drinks before competition to help them gain an added edge. This can become a dangerous habit if a person's drink of choice contains a lot of sodium, sugar and caffeine, as these ingredients will affect the body as it tries to replenish itself with electrolytes lost during an intense workout. In fact, caffeine can have a diuretic and dehydrating effect on an athlete when he or she desperately requires water.

Remember, read the manufacturer's warning label on energy drinks and don't exceed the recommended daily intake. People who do can be putting their health at risk.