EDUCATIONAL GAP

Hundreds of different energy drinks are available and are marketed to adolescents, carrying the potential for substance abuse that involves caffeine and alcohol. Clinicians must be educated to deal with their patients’ use of these products.

OBJECTIVES

After reading this article, readers should be able to:

  1. Understand the size and scope of the energy drink market and recognize common energy drink brands.

  2. Know that adolescents are high consumers of energy drinks and use them as performance enhancers.

  3. Know the contents of energy drinks and their adverse effects and safety concerns.

  4. Know that energy drinks can be a cause of tachycardia, hypertension, obesity, and other medical problems in adolescents.

  5. Know the dangers of mixing energy drinks with alcohol.

  6. Understand the relationship between caffeine tolerance/dependence and alcohol tolerance/dependence.

  7. Understand the importance of screening teenagers for energy drink use in the office setting and offering appropriate counseling.

INTRODUCTION

Energy drinks are caffeinated beverages advertised as boosting the immune system, enhancing performance, and creating a “buzz” or a “high.” Some of these drinks contain alcohol, and sometimes consumers mix them with alcoholic beverages. This article reviews current information about the content, benefits, and risks of the use of these energy drinks by adolescents.

Adolescents are no strangers to energy drinks, and over the past 2 years, media reports have heightened the awareness of doctors, parents, and lawmakers. In 2010, nine university students in Washington State were hospitalized and one almost died; their illness was attributed to a fruit-flavored, caffeinated alcoholic drink. A month earlier, on a college campus in New Jersey, 23 students were hospitalized after becoming intoxicated, again reportedly after drinking the same …

  1. Kwabena L. Blankson, MD*
  2. Amy M. Thompson, DO
  3. Dale M. Ahrendt, MD
  4. Vijayalakshmy Patrick, MD§

+Author Affiliations

  1. *Maj, US Air Force, Adolescent Medicine, Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, VA.
  2. Maj, US Army, Adolescent Medicine Fellow, San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium (SAUSHEC), San Antonio, TX.
  3. Lt Col, US Air Force, Program Director, Adolescent Medicine, Fellowship, SAUSHEC, San Antonio, TX.
  4. §Psychiatrist, Brooke Army Medical Center Associate Professor, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX.
  • Author Disclosure

    Drs Blankson, Thompson, Ahrendt, and Patrick have disclosed no financial relationships relevant to this article. This commentary does not contain a discussion of an unapproved/investigative use of a commercial product/device.