-Candice Smith, Contributing Writer
Unleash the beast! Vitalizes body and mind! Party like a rock star! Go full throttle or go home! Do any of these phrases sound familiar? They should. Monster, Redbull, Rockstar and Full Throttle are just a few of the big name energy drinks that are causing an alarming number of health effects on young adults. Hundreds of new energy drinks have been created since 2006, raking in almost $6 billion dollars for the energy drink industry. When I see the ingredients guarana, ginseng, herbal extracts, ginkgo biloba and B vitamins, I think of healthy ingredients. But, these ingredients only mask what the companies do not want you to know. In the fine print, caffeine, which is the primary constituent in energy drinks, causes diuresis (increased discharge of urine), natriuresis (increased excretion of sodium in the urine), reduces insulin sensitivity, increases blood pressure, jolt and crash episodes, heart palpitations and causes chronic daily headaches. The central nervous system, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and renal dysfunction are all associated with increased amounts of caffeine consumption (Nutrition Journal, 2007).
So…with all of this knowledge, why do college students still consume energy drinks? The top 6 reasons are due to insufficient sleep, in need of general energy, studying/major projects, driving for extended periods of time, mix with alcohol at a party and to treat a hangover. Let me get this straight! A college student mixes the energy drink with alcohol to get drunk THEN drinks an energy drink the next morning to cure a hangover? Sounds kind of doltish, don’t you think?
It’s all about the marketing, students! Don’t let big name energy drink companies fool you! Let me give you an example. People are able to consume Cocaine energy drinks because it’s a “legal alternative” to the Schedule II drug.
Monster drink says their drinks provide “a double shot of our killer energy brew. It’s a wicked mega hit that delivers twice the buzz of a regular energy drink…!” This would make any college student want a drink. Did you know Schedule II drugs are dangerous because they, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, are highly addictive and can cause drug abuse and severe psychological or physical dependency?
Fifty percent of energy drink users consume at least two or more drinks while studying or working on a project. Thirty-six percent drink the same number as to stay awake from lack of insufficient sleep. Nutritional Journal (2007) reports that a whopping 73 percent of energy drink users mix energy drinks with alcohol because college students feel an alcoholic environment is the primary location to meet and socialize with others.
According to Caffeine Informer, data was gathered over the course of seven years from calls that were placed to a poison control center about caffeine consumption. A poison control center is a medical facility that is able to provide immediate, free and expert advice and assistance over the phone in case of exposure to poisonous or hazardous substances. Isn’t that odd that one would feel the need to contact a poison control center for energy drink consumption?
The top ten reasons for contacting the poison control center from energy drink consumption are, from most common to least common: palpitations/tachycardia, tremor/shaking, agitation/restlessness, gastrointestinal upset, chest pain/ischaemia, dizziness/syncope, paraesthesia (tingling or numbing of the skin), insomnia, respiratory distress and headache. Higher dosages can also lead to dizziness, nausea, nervousness and jitters. Allergic reactions can include a rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling, diarrhea, shaking and vomiting. An individual can also suffer from fatigue and painful withdraw symptoms.
Isn’t it ironic that many college students will not consume cocaine because it causes heart palpitations, headaches, tremors, gastrointestinal problems and possibly death, but college students will drink caffeinated energy drinks, which can cause heart palpitations, headaches, tremors, gastrointestinal problems and possibly death due to a heart attack?
“Legal” doesn’t always mean “safe,” just like “natural” doesn’t always mean “safe.” Many herbs and vitamins are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so there is no guaranty to its safety (Safe Medication). According to DoSomething.org, there are multiple alternatives to energy drinks. An apple is high in energy-boosting vitamins and natural sugar. Almost three-fourths of Americans are dehydrated, so consuming eight glasses of water a day can refuel you. Salmon and cold-water fish are high in vitamin B which is a major energy booster. Chocolate, in moderation, can increase energy. Also, if you feel dead during the day, sleep, because it’s a power booster.
If you feel you have become addicted to energy drinks and are suffering from side effects, please contact Student Counseling Services located on the 4th floor of Alumni Hall or contact the office at 601-925-7790.