Although in 2014 selling or otherwise transferring energy drinks to minors is prohibited, many teenagers try their luck trying to purchase them.
Nevertheless, Gabija Laubner-Sakalauskienė, head of the Department of Acute Poisonings and RITS of Toxicology of the Republic of Vilnius University Hospital, doctor of clinical toxicology, doctor anesthesiologist-reanimatologist, was happy to see the positive results of the law with her own eyes – a patient seller who diligently asks to show documents proving adulthood.
Caffeine is also a psychoactive substance
Regardless of the letter of the law, the reality is that the forbidden fruit is even more attractive, so even minors find ways to obtain these drinks. The doctor urges you to take it very seriously.
An energy drink is otherwise defined as a non-alcoholic drink containing more than 150 mg/l of caffeine, regardless of source. However, such a drink may also contain one or more other substances that stimulate the central nervous system, such as glucurone, lactone, inositol, guaranine, ginsenosides, ginkgo extract, taurine or others.
“If we talk about an energy drink and look at its ingredients and how they affect the central nervous system, we should emphasize that caffeine is a psychoactive substance. It may not cause such harm to an adult when used in moderation.
But when we talk about minors, young people whose brains and structures are still developing, any psychoactive substance affects these processes in one way or another. It is no coincidence that minors are also not recommended to drink coffee. Therefore, the purpose of the ban was to allow the brain to mature, because the damage will not be so great if you consume these drinks at an older age,” he argued for the need for changes to the legal framework.
Strongly affects the heart, can even cause hallucinations
Speaking about the potential harm of energy drinks, the interviewer singled out two most important things – what is the dose and the age of the person consuming it.
“If we talk about minors, the harm of energy drinks depends on how much is consumed. The dose can be minimal, equivalent to 1 or 3 cups of coffee, but it can be very high when an energy drink contains up to 5-6 cups of caffeine.
The effect of caffeine itself is short-term, but in that short time it is able to cause certain long-lasting changes in the body. Caffeine has a stimulating effect – it increases the amount of adrenaline, dopamine, and human activity,” said G. Laubner-Sakalauskienė.
If a higher dose is consumed, it causes anxiety in a child who is underweight. According to the doctor’s explanation, a person can be very excited because of this. If the anxiety is of a higher degree, panic attacks may also occur.
“When under the influence of stimulants, the child may start to lose orientation in the environment, due to increased adrenaline and dopamine, increased blood pressure, start to shake. If taken in large amounts, hallucinations may also occur. The heart is also affected, the pulse and blood pressure increase. I don’t want to scare you, but it can lead to very serious problems with the heart, especially since there are cases where a young and athletic person died after drinking an energy drink – it all ended in cardiac arrest.
Energy drink also affects the digestive tract, since it is a carbonated drink, it can cause abdominal pain and increased intestinal activity. Caffeine itself has a diuretic effect, so a person urinates more, which leads to dehydration. Basically, it affects all body systems,” commented the doctor.
The dangers of energy drinks are not just physiological effects. According to the doctor, there are a number of studies showing how it affects the mental health of children and adolescents.
“These are stimulating substances that not only increase the already considerable activity of a child or teenager, but also cause aggression, possible outbreaks of violence. There have been studies in America that have shown that people who consume energy drinks are more prone to violence, risk-taking, and behave more aggressively.
And if the child is accompanied by anxiety, insomnia, the child does not sleep normally, the next day he snoozes, it means that he does worse at school, he cannot absorb the taught material, learning is automatically affected. Then he wants to sleep all day, if he falls asleep, then he doesn’t sleep again at night, the circadian rhythm is disrupted,” she warned about the vicious circle that is turning.
A straight path to resuscitation
Speaking about the consequences of consuming energy drinks for adults, the doctor noticed that they also have a negative reaction to excessive amounts of the drink, but more often there is a great danger when it is mixed with alcohol.
At that time, two substances with completely different effects are mixed, which can have very sad consequences for health.
“Taking a stimulant with a depressant at the same time is much more dangerous than drinking alcohol alone, because then its effects are hidden. Caffeine then prevents drowsiness, the effect of alcohol decreases, the person seems to drink less, so alcohol consumption increases. Then the risk of poisoning, sexual violence, injuries also increases, such a combination greatly encourages urination and dehydration. Without feeling how much alcohol has been consumed, everything can end very sadly and even lead to a coma”, warned G. Laubner-Sakalauskienė.
There have been studies in America that have shown that people who consume energy drinks are more prone to violence, risk-taking, and behave more aggressively.
According to the doctor, more energy drink patients are seen in the hospital when they are mixed with alcohol.
“There are cases when an energy drink is mixed with alcohol. But there are also such cases when an energy drink with alcohol is consumed in the evening, then the effect of alcohol manifests itself very strongly, a person is very strongly intoxicated by alcohol.
Then in the morning you have to go to work, you drink an energy drink, after work you can’t sleep, then you drink benzodiazepines or some other sedatives and the cycle starts, when some substances are used from morning to night in order to be able to function normally. It is possible to get out of it, but the next time it cannot be done without medical help,” said the doctor.
Are energy drinks worth it at all?
When asked whether energy drinks have the right to exist in general, or whether adults should also avoid their use, the doctor recalled a good old saying that Paracelsus repeated a hundred years ago:
“The dose separates the medicine from the poison. The same can be said of any substance, even water, taken in excess, can become poison. But when it comes to adults, there are situations when an energy drink really helps, for example, a person needs to drive when tired, to complete some task. But all problems start when there is no moderation, there is abuse.”
The doctor pointed out that the energy drink itself does not add energy from the outside, but the substances that are in the liquid mobilize the body’s own mechanisms.
“Dopamine and adrenaline increase then, it’s not like you drink some substance that will add energy, everything is taken from the body’s reserves. Body substances involved in these processes burn very quickly, the body uses up its internal resources and then begins to lack them. Then you think about how to fill them up – why not drink an energy drink? This is how the circle turns again”, commented G. Laubner-Sakalauskienė.
The substance is legal but addictive
When asked if caffeine is addictive, the toxicologist confirmed that such an effect exists, but reminded that it is a legal substance: “You can notice that people who stop drinking coffee feel bad for a week, have a headache, and want to sleep. So the fact is that caffeine itself is addictive, only it is so controlled and classified as a legal substance, because it does not cause any obvious harm to an adult person and society, one can say, even the opposite – it compares.”
When asked how she would advise not to get stuck in a closed circle and not become addicted to stimulants, the doctor gave a very simple advice – to give the body enough rest.
“The organism is very intelligent, it can do everything, but it is necessary not to damage it, not to poison it, not to create an artificial situation. If the body rests enough, sleeps, the basic things such as physical activity are followed, the food is correct, then nothing extra is needed, the person has enough energy. A cup of coffee is one thing, but will we find those who drink 4-5 cups in one go”, – G. Laubenr-Sakalauskienė compared the amounts of caffeine.
Tags: Warning popular drink promotes anxiety aggression mixed alcohol risk resuscitation