Caffeine and High Caffeine Energy Drinks

This information is available from PAD’s Parent & Community Handbook, 7th edition.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a drug that is found in a large number of everyday products, including coffee, tea, colas, chocolate and a number of prescription and over-the-counter medicines.  Caffeine comes from a number of different plant sources, such as coffee, tea, kola, cocoa, guarana and yerba maté.  It can also be produced and added to drinks and medicines.  Tolerance to the effects of the drug varies greatly. In general, healthy adults are not considered to be at risk for adverse effects of caffeine as long as they limit their intake to 400 milligrams a day.  While the amount of caffeine in a beverage varies widely, that would be about three cups of coffee.  Children and adolescents are at a greater risk for the effects of caffeine.  The recommended limit for pre-teens is 85 milligrams a day.

Effects

  • the person may feel more alert and able to concentrate
  • the person may experience insomnia, headaches, irritability and nervousness

 

High Caffeine Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are beverages (such as Red Bull, Rockstar, and Monster) that contain caffeine and high levels of sugar or artificial sweeteners.   In addition to the caffeine content noted in the listed ingredients, additional caffeine can come from added herbal ingredients such as guarana and yerba maté.  Other ingredients, such as taurine, ginseng or vitamins, may also be in these drinks.  There is little scientific evidence concerning the effects of these ingredients.  Recently Health Canada has set out regulations to cap the amount of caffeine in energy drinks.  The consumption of energy drinks by children and adolescents is of particular concern because the stimulating effects can cause rapid heart rate, an abnormal heart rhythm, increased blood pressure, and sleeplessness.  Mixing alcohol with energy drinks is particularly dangerous.  When a person is impaired by alcohol, energy drinks give them a feeling of greater alertness and improved motor control.  They then feel more sober than they really are and more likely to keep drinking – leading to increased rates of injury, drunk driving, risky sexual behaviour or alcohol poisoning.

Effects

  • the person may feel more alert
  • the person may experience headaches, anxiety, irregular heartbeat and seizures
  • the use of energy drinks after exercise may interfere with proper hydration
  • when mixed with alcohol,  there is an increased risk of injury, risk taking and excessive drinking

 

High Caffeine Energy Drinks and Adolescents

  • About half (49.5%) of all students in grades 7 through 12 report drinking an energy drink at least once in the past year.
  • Use of energy drinks begins early; more than one-third of grade 7 students reported having had a drink
  • About one in five students report mixing energy drinks with alcohol