Highly caffeinated drinks such as Red Bull and Rockstar have begun to replace a good night’s sleep in many teen and young adult lives. Filling schedules with school, extracurricular activities such as sports and clubs, and maintaining a social life has led teens and college students to decide between studying and sleeping. These high powered energy drinks help young adults do both, keeping them awake in order to study and then taking short, two or three hour “naps” before beginning their next day, rather than getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep.
These drinks contain so much caffeine as compared to sodas and coffee, that the FDA has required warning levels indicating that the regulated amount of caffeine is greatly exceeded in Red Bull and products like it. With 160 mg of caffeine in Red Bull, as compared to 17 mgs in a normal 12 ounce soda, or 100 mg in an average cup of coffee, two or more of these high powered energy drinks can lead to what researchers are calling “caffeine intoxication”, which causes similar symptoms to alcohol intoxication.
Caffeine intoxication causes everything from nervousness to excitement, disorientation to judgment impairment, muscle spasms to hallucinations. The anxiety associated with high amounts of these caffeinated drinks can also lead to a variety of problems that could require medical attention.
The National Safety Commission (NSC) has issued an alert for those driving under caffeine intoxication, similar to warnings associated with drinking alcohol and driving. Although drinking a cup or two of coffee or a soda can cause a driver to be more alert and focused on the road, caffeine intoxication from consuming two or more highly caffeinated energy drinks can lead to restlessness in drivers and irritability that can make them dangerous on the road.
The NSC finds that the lack of sleep associated with high consumption of these drinks is the biggest issue. Without sleep, disorientation can occur and thus driving can be impaired. According to the NSC, “studies show that approximately one hour after drinking a highly caffeinated and sugared drink, a sleep deprived person can experience lapses in concentration and tends to have slower reactions.”
The problem increases when the caffeine begins to wear off. The lack of sleep can hit the driver quickly, causing the driver to fall asleep at the wheel. Studies have shown that drinking energy drinks frequently over a long period of time can cause “caffeine induced sleep disorder,” which poses even more problems to the drinker’s body and sleep patterns, making them an even bigger danger as a driver on the road.
The NSC also warns that when a person decides to stop drinking energy drinks on a regular basis, withdrawals will occur, leading to headaches and concentration issues. The Commission warns that those experiencing these symptoms from attempting to stop drinking highly caffeinated drinks should not drive until the symptoms diminish.