Should Energy Drinks Carry A Warning Label?

Should Energy Drinks Carry A Warning Label?

“These drinks are teaching young people improper coping skills. You learn, “if I drink this energy drink, then I won’t need much sleep.”

When you need a boost, energy drinks seem like a great solution. You’re exhausted before an exam, or just looking for a jolt of energy, and the answer comes in a can. But there are health concerns around energy drinks, especially when combined with alcohol or when consumed after exercise.

Concerns are rising in New Brunswick, especially following an American study, which shows a doubling of hospitalizations related to energy drinks between 2007 and 2011 — from 10,000 to 20,000. Most cases involved teens and young adults.

The caffeine in energy drinks is known to cause several physical and psychiatric symptoms, including anxiety, nervousness, irritability, and insomnia. It can affect blood pressure and heart rate. At higher doses, it can cause delirium, neuromuscular tremors, and convulsions.

New Brunswick is considering adding a warning label to energy drinks to warn about the adverse health effects. The next step maybe prohibiting the sale of energy drinks to minors.

A classroom of Psychiatric Nursing students at MacEwan University had a unique perspective on the issue. Their studies balance physical and psychiatric health, and, like many students in summer classes, they are in need of a little extra energy.

Many of the students agreed that a warning label was a positive idea: if a significant number of young people are being hospitalized, then there should be a warning about the risks.

“Kids are uneducated on the medical side effects,” suggested one of the  students. A warning sign may serve to educate youth about some of the medical effects and dangers of consuming energy drinks.

Another student felt that most youth would ignore a warning sign. Combining alcohol and energy drinks is particularly dangerous, but many people ignore the apparent risk. “At the bar they already sell you alcohol and energy drinks separately, because they aren’t allowed to mix them,” she says. “We all know it’s not the ideal situation [to combine them].” But they are still being combined and consumed.

Perhaps the most compelling argument about energy drinks surrounds the bad habits they promote.

“These drinks are teaching young people improper coping skills,” insists a student. “You learn ‘if I drink this energy drink, then I won’t need much sleep.'”

“We need to promote real coping skills — if you are tired, you need to sleep.”

Still, when the class was polled, approximately 1/3 of the group admitted that they would drink an energy drink before an exam, if they were exhausted after an all-night study session.

Do you think energy drinks should carry a health warning? Do you they should be restricted from minors? Leave a comment.