According to a 2013 market research report, manufacturers of energy drinks are making more money than ever before. The market for energy drinks climbed 60% from the years of 2008 to 2013, resulting in a net worth of over $12.5 billion. The report predicted sales would surpass $21 billion by 2017, and unless something changes, that mark is likely to be met.
It’s no surprise as to why energy drinks and similar substances are so popular. In a society that seems to revolve around long work shifts, overnight hours, and the stresses of balancing work, volunteer/extracurricular activities, and home, family, and social engagements, we could all benefit from a magic pill that lets us be productive on less sleep. Science hasn’t designed such a pill yet, but in the meantime, we have these fancy caffeine drinks that advertise the same effect.
Energy drinks are also marketed to younger audiences as something cool and exciting. They’re vastly popular in college campuses nationwide as well as at sporting events and within video game communities. As younger and younger teenagers become familiar with the effects of energy drinks and how they can be useful during all-night study sessions and parties, there’s no risk of energy drink profits slowing down anytime soon.
What about the risks to us? To our teenagers? Is there anything we need to worry about? Sure, every now and then we’ll hear something on the news about the dangerous levels of caffeine in these drinks, but are the drinks really that bad? Wouldn’t they be taken off the market if the risks were that serious?
The answer to that last question may surprise you. Most energy drink manufacturers don’t need to report severe adverse effects to the FDA since the drinks are legally defined as “conventional foods”. The manufacturers found a loophole and chose to define them as such to avoid reporting to the FDA. Any reports that are issued are completely voluntary, and as such, most long term side effects haven’t been studied at all. The manufacturers aren’t even forced to place accurate labels on their products regarding the active ingredients.
We’re just starting to see the repercussions of consuming energy drinks daily in our emergency rooms. Between the years of 2007 and 2011, emergency room visits involving energy drinks doubled to more than 20,000, according to one report. In another study, the long term side effects were tested in patients who consumed energy drinks on a daily basis. Most complications affected the heart or brain. The most common ailments for long term consumers included heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and seizures. Both ailments can lead to devastating consequences if left untreated.
These ailments are fairly expected given the main worry when it comes to energy drinks: Caffeine. In high doses, caffeine can cause excess stress on both the heart and neural pathways. Since energy drink manufacturers aren’t required to post the exact levels of caffeine on their products, this can quickly lead to trouble. Even the manufacturers that do post a caffeine amount are likely to underestimate the amount since the labels aren’t regulated.
Most researchers believe it’s safe for healthy adults to consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. For estimated comparison purposes, this is roughly the equivalent of one venti 20-ounce Starbucks coffee or two shots of 5-Hour Energy. A tested 8-ounce Red Bull, as another example, had 80 milligrams of caffeine while a tested 16-ounce Bang had over 350 milligrams. A tested Rockstar 16-ounce drink had 160 milligrams while a tested 16-ounce Full Throttle (Monster) drink had 200.
As long as a healthy adult stays within that limitation, there may not be cause for worry, but due to the fact that energy drink manufacturers may be severely underestimating how much caffeine is in their products, setting limitations can be difficult—and deadly. Consuming multiple energy drinks within a rapid time frame can also be more dangerous, as can mixing energy drinks with alcohol since caffeine tends to slow the noticeable effects of alcohol.
If energy drink manufacturers were required to post the exact caffeine contents of their products on the labels, it would be possible to practice healthy consumption. The manufacturers should also be required by the FDA to properly test the long term effects of the drinks. Furthermore, marketing these drinks to young teenagers should not be allowed—not when the dangers of overdosing on caffeine are inherently more dangerous to children and teenagers.
The only way that energy drink manufacturers will step up and do the above is if they are forced to do so legally. If you or anyone you love has suffered from health complications you feel may have been caused by consuming energy drinks, you may be entitled to file a lawsuit against the manufacturers of these beverages. It’s time to take a stand and insist these corporations prioritize the nation’s health.
If you’re in the Louisville, KY area, contact a Louisville, KY product liability lawyer like Tad Thomas of Thomas Law Offices today to find out if we can help you set up a case and make these drinks safer for America.