Energy Drinks and Teens – What Every Parent Ought to Know

energy-drink-dangers1Jolt, Buzzed, Amp, Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar, Nos, Full Throttle, Sobe… sounds like nicknames for the starting lineup of a hockey team, but they’re not.

These, my fellow wired parents, are the names of just a handful of the many different energy drinks that our teens are consuming by the “BFC” (that’s an acronym for Big F*****g Can, and is indeed the name used for one style of Monster drinks).

And we thought we were wild when we were kids and we drank Mountain Dew, now they have things like Hype and Bawls to get their kicks with. Are these energy drinks safe? As parents of today’s teens, should we be concerned?

Increasing Popularity

According to a recent USA Today article, the  market  for energy drinks in the US was at a whopping $5.4 billion. Even more, the market is growing at an annual 55% rate. As you may have guessed, much of this growth is due in part to the popularity among young drinkers – teens like yours and mine.

Caffeine Amounts

A quick Google search of “energy drink caffeine amounts” yields several good links to investigate just how much caffeine these buzzy drinks contain. One of the most comprehensive lists can be found at Energy Fiend (appropriately named).

Energy Fiend’s caffeine list includes just about every energy drink on the market, as well as other caffeinated beverages like drip coffee and Diet Coke. This lets you more easily compare the caffeine amounts to something you have some experience with.

Lack of Regulation

When it comes to regulations on how much caffeine energy drink manufacturers may infuse into their products, well, none exist. The FDA does not currently regulate caffeine amounts.

A can of one brand may contain about 50 milligrams of caffeine – about the same as a Mountain Dew. Meanwhile, another may contain a mind-buzzing 500 milligrams of caffeine – enough to cause some potentially dangerous side-effects for someone not very tolerant to caffeine.

What makes this more worrisome is the fact that many of these drinks do not label the amount of caffeine the product contains. You’d think the FDA would regulate this, right? Not yet.

Death by Caffeine

The Energy Fiend website contains an interesting caffeine calculator known as “Death by Caffeine“. The tag line for the calculator – “How much of your favorite energy drink, soda, or caffeinated food would it take to kill you?” Hmm, sounds like good family fun. Actually, it is pretty amusing to play with, just don’t tell your teens about it.

Parental Role

Both of our teenage boys have consumed their fair share of energy drinks over the past couple of years. As with most things with teens, making sure they’re being reasonable with their choices is the key with these beverages.

We’ve discussed the dangers of over-consumption of caffeine, and they’ve both come home with stories of kids they know at school who went way overboard and paid the price.

At the ripe old age of 35, I must admit that I spend some time with these drinks once and awhile as well. Like our teens, I don’t drink them too often, and never down more than one in a day.

What about you? Has the energy drink craze made it’s way into your home? How have you dealt with this with your kids? Please share your experiences in the comments.


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