Product News and Recalls

Doctor says energy drinks are really drugs

In a column in USA Today, physician Kevin Pho, M.D., warns about the health hazards of high-caffeine energy drinks.

“Perhaps most effective would be to stop seeing energy drinks as beverages, and instead view them as liquid stimulant drugs,” Pho writes. “Because that’s what they really are.”

He cites a recent survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which reported more than 20,000 emergency room visits involving energy drinks in 2011. That’s double the number from 2007.

And last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration received reports of 18 deaths and over 150 injuries that might have been associated with the drinks, Pho writes. Serious health problems associated with the drinks include palpitations, rapid heart rates, dehydration, elevated blood pressures and heart attacks.

Yet according to the column:

  • Energy drink sales in the U.S. have hit more than $10 billion, which is far more than categories such as iced tea or sports drinks.
  • About 6 billion energy drinks were consumed nationwide in 2010.
  • An estimated 31 percent of teenagers drink them regularly.

Pho writes that they work because of their high levels of caffeine. Two ounces of a popular brand contains 207 mg of caffeine, amounting to more than double the recommended amount of daily caffeine intake for teenagers — who are often the targets of marketing.

Yet because many of them also contain herbal ingredients, they can be sold as dietary supplements rather than drugs. That frees manufacturers from listing the caffeine amounts.

See the story here: