Beverages adulterated with high levels of caffeine that are marketed as “energy drinks” pose serious health and safety risks for children and teenagers, who are able to purchase these drinks at local stores. Some of these beverages contain a combination of caffeine and alcohol and are being targeted to young adults.
“There has been relatively little research specifically aimed at revealing the effects of caffeine in young people and much more work is urgently needed,” Jack E. James, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Caffeine Research, School of Psychology, National University of Ireland, Galway. “ In addition to the risks of physical dependence and withdrawal, caffeine has been found to have a negative effect on the academic performance of children and adolescents. Caffeine consumption by young people can set the stage for a life-long habit of caffeine use, with the potential for long-term health effects, and may also increase the likelihood that they will use other drugs, both licit and illicit, during adolescence and later in life.”
Fueling the growing controversy and the dangers associated with these “energy drinks” are 2 trends: targeted marketing of the beverages to young consumers (offering drinks in fruit flavours and packaging them in colorful cans”; and the increasing popularity of alcoholic energy drinks which contain both caffeine and the alcohol equivalent of as much as 3 beers.
The potential dangers of caffeine-enhanced beverages are especially worrying for adolescents and children who may experience even stronger caffeine related effects than adults due to their smaller stature and the potentially higher caffeine concentrations in their blood after consuming these beverages. The physical and psychoactive effects of caffeine can include increased blood pressure, dependence and associated withdrawal symptoms such as headache, sleep disturbance, increased daytime sleepiness, and irritability, and the potential to compound emotional problems such as anxiety, depression and anger.