"All the sugar and twice the caffeine": That was the Jolt Cola from 30 years ago. Energy drinks today are similarly marketed as providing mental and physical stimulation. They generally contain large doses of caffeine. For example, one particular energy drink contains 422 mg of caffeine in a 1.93-ounce serving; compare this with 162 mg of caffeine an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee or 72 mg of caffeine in a 12-ounce can of a popular soda.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents consume no more than 100 mg of caffeine a day, but some of them exceed this recommendation. Approximately 30 percent of students reported they consumed energy drinks or caffeine shots, according to a recent study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.
The Food and Drug Administration is concerned that caffeine is being added not only to energy drinks but also to a growing number of products that appeal to children and teens such as chewing gum, jelly beans, oatmeal and even waffles! The World Health Organization is concerned that children can buy highly caffeinated products as much and as often as they wish.
More points to ponder:
Is it time to consider energy drinks as a gateway drug? As defined by Merriam-Webster, a gateway drug is "a drug ... whose use is thought to lead to the use of and dependence on a harder drug..." Alcohol, tobacco and marijuana are traditionally considered the gateway drugs. With energy drinks, not only are almost a third of teens consuming them, but teens who used energy drinks were two or three times more likely to use alcohol, tobacco and marijuana compared with those who didn't use energy drinks, according to the study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine. This correlational study indicates that that there is an association between consumption of energy drinks and use of the gateway drugs. So yes, I think it's time.
My advice: I'm not saying that teenagers who consume energy drinks are definitely on their way to cocaine or heroin. But shouldn't we all take the time to talk with our teens about alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and energy drinks…before they have the opportunity to pass through the gateway?