The buzz on energy drinks

High school senior Logan Stiner had the world ahead of him. The Ohio native was a member of the National Honor Society, had just been voted prom king, was a state qualifier in wrestling, and planned to attend the University of Toledo in the fall. His dreams were cut short when he was found dead on the floor of his home. According to Teen Vogue, the cause of his death was a “totally legal, highly concentrated form of caffeine.”

Logan Stiner had the world ahead of him but his life was cut short when he overdosed on a legal form of caffeine.
Logan Stiner had the world ahead of him, but his life was cut short when he overdosed on a totally legal, highly concentrated form of caffeine. (Creative Commons license)

Dozens of teens are turning to caffeinated products to help them get through their busy lives. Although these products are legal, energy drinks and caffeine cause more harm than good. In extreme cases, overuse can lead to heart failure and even death.

According to Brown University, the stimulating properties in energy drinks and caffeinated products can increase heart rate and blood pressure, dehydrate the body, and prevent sleep. High levels of caffeine can also cause seizures and even lead to death, as in the case of Stiner.

Steven Tucker, a general practitioner in Singapore warns that “safe levels of caffeine for adolescents have not been established, but are presumed to be lower than for adults. Individuals, especially adolescents, need to be cautioned about excessive caffeine intake and mixing caffeine with alcohol and other drugs.”

Using soda, coffee, or energy drinks to survive late night study sessions is nothing out of the ordinary for busy students, but an alarming trend is emerging. With the easy access to caffeinated products, teenagers are choosing to use potentially dangerous forms of caffeine to search for a faster and stronger boost of energy.

One of the products teenagers are using is 5-Hour Energy, which is a popular caffeinated product that is sold in the US. It can be Screen shot 2015-03-13 at AM 08.41.58found in TV commercials, magazine ads, and on store shelves. This common product can have dangerous consequences. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received reports that the product might have been the cause of 13 deaths and over 30 hospitalizations.

Interestingly, 5-Hour Energy does not share the exact amount of caffeine that an individual energy shot contains. However, they compare it to drinking around one premium cup of coffee. One energy shot won’t kill you, but having 5-10 is clearly not safe.

The drink Monster Energy is another product to be cautious about. It is similar to Red Bull and can be found in Singapore. In 2011, 14-year-old Anais Fournier drank two 24 ounce cans of Monster Energy. The ingredients in the drink brought out an underlying heart condition, and after spending six days in coma, she was pronounced brain dead.

Although overdosing on caffeine is uncommon, there are other negative consequences. One problem with consuming large amounts of caffeine is that it disrupts sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to learning and memory problems, as well as daytime sleepiness. When sleepy during the day, people tend to consume more caffeine. It becomes a vicious cycle that is difficult to stop.

Senior Jacqueline Bauer used to drink coffee twice a day but had negative side effects. “I would get headaches and sometimes I would have a hard time sleeping because the caffeine would keep me up.” Now, she sticks to drinking “coffee twice a week.” She believes “it has made a huge difference” because she “no longer experiences headaches and can fall asleep easily.”

Monster Energy is a dangerous caffeinated product that can be found in the US and Singapore. The danger is that it brings out underlying heart conditions which can lead to comas and even death.
Monster Energy is a dangerous caffeinated product that can be found in the US and Singapore. The danger is that it brings out underlying heart conditions which can lead to comas and even death. (Creative Commons license)

Tucker suggests “taking it slow” when consuming caffeine. “Caffeine withdrawal causes flu like symptoms, nausea, and muscle pain.”

The scary part is “caffeine withdrawal can occur with abstinence from daily doses as low as 100 mg/day, but the incidence and severity of symptoms increases with higher daily dose.”

It might be unrealistic to completely cut out caffeine from a person’s diet, but it is important to limit the amount consumed. One cup of coffee is reasonable, but 10 is a problem. If you or a friend is relying on heavy amounts of energy products on a daily basis, it is important to get help from an adult. Consuming too much caffeine has serious consequences – including death. 

Author: Mackenzie Hirsch

Mackenzie Hirsch is a Senior and a new addition to the Eye Staff this year. She is originally from Greensboro, North Carolina but has lived in Singapore for 5 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming for the SAS varsity team and traveling to new places.