Energy drinks linked

Ashley Hughes

     The buzz on energy drinks is generally positive (it usually contains what advertisers would like people to know), however, there are many negative side effects of energy drinks that the majority of the population seems to be ignorant of. Research shows that consuming energy drinks with a large amount of caffeine can affect drivers as badly as alcohol can.

     When more than 250 mg of caffeine is consumed, a person reaches what is called caffeine intoxication. It takes approximately two energy drinks to reach this level while it would take more than four large cups of coffee for one to reach the same state. When one is caffeine intoxicated the side effects are restlessness, aggressiveness, irritability and an irregular heartbeat, all of which can affect one’s driving by causing poor decision making and making some become uneasy, twitchy, agitated and unable to concentrate.

     “I don’t drink energy drinks. I’ve heard that they cause kidney failure and other negative consequences,” Chante Jefferson, freshman, said.

     Often energy drinks are consumed to substitute for sleep, even though an initial burst of energy is all that users receive. In the case of driving, this can cause serious damage. When one consumes an energy drink, the initial burst of energy will eventually wear off, leaving the driver in a state of absolute exhaustion and potential disorientation. After one hour of drinking these beverages, it is proven that reaction times become slower and concentration begins to dissolve. In some situations, the driver becomes unable to fight back sleep any longer. This can lead to accidents that could kill the consumer or even an innocent victim.

     “I just thought that energy drinks would make you hyper and spike your blood pressure, I didn’t realize that it could affect your driving,” Katie Hill, senior, said. “I guess in a way it is like drinking. So overindulgence in anything, really, is bad for you.”

     Alcoholic energy drinks have also become prominent the past few years. They are packaged the same as regular energy drinks and were created to give an unusual counteraction between the alcohol and the energy drinks so that party crowds can have the buzz of alcohol, minus the sleepy side effects. However these drinks lead to riskier behavior and more injuries than regular alcohol, because the consumer feels that they can drive safely due to their excess amount of energy. The consumer thinks they are aware and does not feel like they are drunk. But when the effects of the caffeine wear off, the person feels the full effects of the alcohol.

     The average American drank about six liters of energy drinks last year and the most common consumers of these energy drinks were teenagers, sales representatives and truckers. These groups are among the worst offenders when it comes to dangerous driving due to caffeine intoxication. There have been several cases where a teenager has been arrested for reckless driving and failed the physical sobriety test. These teens had not consumed any alcoholic beverages but they did have several energy drinks.

     “Sometimes cops can’t tell if you’ve had an energy drink or have been drinking alcohol,” Ashley Cole, sophomore, said. “I do drink energy drinks, mainly Red Bull, [but] if you are out driving around it’s not the best idea to drink them. It affects your eyesight and reactions.”

     The American Heart Association discovered that individuals who indulge in two energy drinks daily have higher blood pressure and heart rate than those who do not. The energy drinks are also connected with kidney failure and seizures. These drinks are highly dangerous for people who have cardiac issues and can cause future problems for those who drink energy drinks for extended periods of time.

     In the United States even a prescription that consists of 100 mg of caffeine per tablet must be labeled to say so. However, a 500 mg energy drink is subject to no such warnings or information requirements about the caffiene dose. The labels on energy drinks generally only provide information on how good the energy drinks taste or how much better and alert that people who drink them feel.

     In the state of Utah, police have been issuing DUIs for those who have had too many energy drinks. Energy drinks have been completely banned in some European countries like Sweden and France because children discovered a way to become “legally high” off of energy drinks.  It has also become banned because they can lead to deadly consequences. 

     “I don’t think that an energy drink [can] affect you as much as alcohol, so the consequences shouldn’t be the same,” Cobby Caputo, sophomore, said. “Getting a DUI for an energy drink shouldn’t be enforced.”

     Drinking energy drinks in moderation is not a bad thing. When they are not used to substitute for sleep and completely relied upon to function, having one is not detrimental to one’s health. However, when the drinks are overindulged before getting behind the wheel, then problems can be caused not only to the consumer, but also to innocent oncoming drivers. Being aware (and not artificially) while driving is crucial.