Last year, The PediaBlog highlighted a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that the number of emergency room visits from the use of highly caffeinated energy beverages more than doubled between 2007 and 2011 (from 10,000 to nearly 21,000 ER visits in the U.S.). SAMHSA describes what these beverages — both legal and widely available to children and teens — contain:

Energy drinks are flavored beverages containing high amounts of caffeine and typically other additives, such as vitamins, taurine, herbal supplements, creatine, sugars, and guarana, a plant product containing concentrated caffeine. These drinks are sold in cans and bottles and are readily available in grocery stores, vending machines, convenience stores, and bars and other venues where alcohol is sold. These beverages provide high doses of caffeine that stimulate the central nervous system and cardiovascular system. The total amount of caffeine in a can or bottle of an energy drink varies from about 80 to more than 500 milligrams (mg), compared with about 100 mg in a 5-ounce cup of coffee or 50 mg in a 12-ounce cola. Research suggests that certain additives may compound the stimulant effects of caffeine.


Mixing these beverages with alcohol became popular with Red Bull’s aggressive marketing, and the more concentrated forms of these drinks — “energy shots” like the product 5-Hour Energy — have also gained fans.  The report found that these drinks without the alcohol led to more than 12,000 emergency room visits in 2007.  Adding that more than 10% of patients older than 12 years old who were treated in the ER had to be admitted to the hospital for further medical intervention, Lenny Bernstein tells why organizations like the AAP want energy drinks better regulated:

A year ago, a group of physicians, researchers and public health experts urged the Food and Drug Administration to protect children and teens by restricting the amount of caffeine in energy drinks.

Energy drink companies have said that their products contain about the same amount of caffeine as strongly brewed coffee.Energy drinks and shots are usually sold as dietary supplements or food products, which don’t have caffeine limits. Other ingredients in energy drinks, such as taurine and ginseng, aren’t regulated by the FDA.

Studies have set different limits for the amount of caffeine an adult can safely consume, ranging from 2oo to 400 milligrams a day. More than 200 milligrams can be dangerous for children and adolescents, and the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against giving energy drinks to children.


Because kids can buy them legally in practically any store where beverages are sold, it’s important that parents understand the difference between today’s modern energy drinks and yesterday’s instant coffee or Mountain Dew.  None of these drinks should be considered casually.