Are Energy Drinks Really Dangerous? The Facts You Need to Know

We’ve all experienced those days when all you want to do is sleep even though somehow you have to find the energy to keep going. Maybe you have an interview at the end of the day or promised friends you’d make it to a late-night party. When you have to be alert and full of energy, grabbing an energy drink can seem like the easiest way to turn the day around. Add it to a cocktail and suddenly you have the energy to party with the best of them.

The following six energy drink facts explain why your favorite picker-uppers should be consumed with care, if at all.

1. They can kill

energy drinks

Energy drinks have the potential to kill. | iStock.com

Yep, you read that correctly. In 2012 the Food and Drug Administration reported 13 deaths since 2009 were caused by 5-Hour Energy shots alone. At that time, an additional 30 life-threatening situations like heart attacks and convulsions were reported. Since these 2012 reports, additional overdoses from energy drinks have been reported, particularly in children and teens.

2. Energy drinks contain unhealthy doses of caffeine

energy drinks

Various energy drinks contain too much caffeine. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This may seem obvious. Of course an energy drink is packed with caffeine — it’s why it does its job so well. What’s worrisome is just how much caffeine energy drinks contain. While a typical serving of coffee has up to 150 milligrams of caffeine, some energy drinks contain up to 500 milligrams. Since caffeine is most absorbable in a solid form, energy drink companies add chemicals to the drink to make it more absorbable to the body and to ensure the customer gets that extra kick of energy. This accounts for the immediate pick-me-up effect of energy drinks and also explains the cases of insomnia, nervousness, and headaches that are reported.

3. Sugar overload

sugar with mint on the side

Some energy drinks contain crazy amounts of sugar. | iStock.com

If you’re trying to lose weight or stay away from sweets, drinking an energy drink is the last thing you want to do. Some brands have up to 62 grams of sugar, which translates into roughly 15½ teaspoons of straight sugar. The crazy-high amounts of sugar make energy drinks chock-full of calories. Consider an energy drink as comparable in calorie content to a large bottle of soda.

4. You can become addicted

close-up of a man clutching his chest to show a heart attack

Energy drinks can be addicting. | iStock.com

Energy drinks seem harmless enough, but for some people, habitual caffeine consumption can lead to dependency. People who become addicted to energy drinks will experience classic withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches or fatigue. In addition to caffeine withdrawal, energy drink fanatics often experience caffeine intoxication, which includes feelings of nervousness, restlessness, and gastrointestinal disturbance while drinking the caffeine-heavy beverages.

5. They can cause heart problems

doctor in a white coat holding a symbol to indicate heart health

They aren’t good for your heart, that’s for sure. | iStock.com

The Canadian Journal of Cardiology published a study that looked at instances of cardiac problems after teens consumed energy drinks. What they found is energy drinks increase the risk of cardiac events, especially in teens with underlying heart conditions. This danger is increased further when mixed with exercise. The study determined that energy drinks should never be consumed before or after exercise or by people who have potential heart conditions.

6. They’re dangerous when combined with medication

man pouring pills into his hand

Your medication and energy drinks may not go well together. | iStock.com

You probably already know mixing energy drinks and alcohol can be dangerous, but mixing energy drinks with medications should also be avoided. Some of the ingredients in common energy drinks can interact negatively with prescription medications, especially those taken for depression.

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