Riding by the high school on my bike today, I saw this telling piece of litter and stopped to check it out. Stay Awake Tablets, Alertness Aid with Caffeine.
It made me sad, like it does when I see beer bottles thrown out on the side of the road.
I couldn’t help but wonder.
- Who took these caffeine pills?
- Was it a young person who felt the need to throw the empty out the car window instead of into a trashcan at home?
- Did the person who used the medication follow the recommended dosage? (One capsule, or 200 mg, every 3-4 hours–equal to two cups of coffee or a half gallon of Coke Classic.)
- Or did they overdose?
Overdosing on caffeine seems quite acceptable in our society. FDA-approved products like Stay Awake clearly tell the user what are the recommended dosages, and it clearly says children under 12 should not use it.
However, “energy drinks are classified as dietary supplements. That means they aren’t strictly monitored for safety like food and beverages. In fact, the FDA requires very little of the manufacturers of supplements – no research on effectiveness, no verification of safety, and no warning of harm from excessive consumption.” (Emphasis mine.) See “Energy Drinks: Definitely Not Kid Stuff!”
Caffeine is popular to be sure. According to OverCaffeinated.org, “it is the most widely used behaviorally active drug in the world.” Drinking caffeine in a moderate amount through coffee and soda helps prevent overdose. It takes some energy, time, and a large bladder to drink a gallon of pop. However, with an energy drink, you only need to drink one can to get the effects of 7 strong cups of coffee or 14 cans of soda.
We could go on and read about the side effects of caffeine toxicity, but enough right now.
Today when I saw that litter and thought about the possible gateway effect to harder drugs, I couldn’t help but think of the sixth grade student I saw at the bus stop each morning finishing up his breakfast, which always included a Red Bull. Really? It used to be an oddity to see a child who liked a cup of coffee, now they are starting their mornings with the equivalent of SEVEN cups of coffee.
A few years ago there was an outcry about a ridiculous product called KickStart Spark. It was an energy drink, including caffeine and other stimulants, vitamins and minerals, marketed to children ages 4 to 11. As you can imagine, it didn’t stay on the market long.
Now, seven years later, where is the outcry? Kids are still drinking energy drinks and overdosing on caffeine every day.
Please let me know what you think about this. Do you see this as a problem in your community?
- Are kids just becoming over-caffeinated like adults?
- Are kids under pressure, forced to “Stay Awake” to perform in school and extra-curricular activities?
- Are energy drinks a gateway drug? Do they lead to other drugs when caffeine is no longer effective?
Besides the links above, here are two more related articles:
“Is Red Bull A Gateway Drug? Some John Hopkins Experts Say Caffeine Drinks Need Warning Labels”
“Energy Drinks Not for Kids, Pediatricians Warn”