Energy drinks are beverages containing ingredients purported to boost energy levels, such as caffeine. The safety of these products depends largely on their individual ingredients and the amount in which they're consumed. Energy drinks that contain caffeine may lead to dependence and withdrawal symptoms when drunk regularly. Learning about the different ingredients in energy drinks allows you to make an informed choice about using the products.
Energy drinks usually contain a combination of caffeine and other ingredients like herbs or vitamins. Common ingredients include B vitamins, taurine, ginseng and carnitine. Guarana — an herb that contains large amounts of caffeine — may be added to energy drinks in addition to synthetic caffeine. According to the University of California Davis, some energy drinks contain several servings per can, resulting in total caffeine doses as high as 294 milligrams. Many of these products also contain large amounts of sugar, corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.
While safe in small doses, the ingredients in some energy drinks can cause side effects in large amounts. Caffeine can cause nervousness, insomnia, nausea, increased urination and other unpleasant effects. The herb yohimbe, which is found in some energy drinks, contains yohimbine — a prescription medication that can cause dangerously low blood pressure. Other side effects that may be associated with energy drinks include heart arrhythmia, irritability and decreased bone density levels. Unpleasant caffeine-related side effects may be more likely to occur when combining energy drinks with medications, foods or supplements that contain caffeine. The University of California Davis states that pregnant women, kids and adolescents should avoid energy drinks altogether.
Dependence and Withdrawal
Most people who drink energy drinks do not develop dependence, but drinks that contain large amounts of caffeine can make your body build up tolerance and mild physical dependence when drunk frequently. In addition, attempting to stop drinking caffeinated beverages after prolonged use may lead to withdrawal symptoms that prevent you from quitting. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, caffeine withdrawal is a medically recognized condition associated with symptoms like headache, drowsiness and irritability. In severe instances, it can even cause flu-like symptoms such as vomiting or muscle pain.
Limiting your use of energy drinks to one serving per day can help prevent addiction and other side effects. Consult your physician before using energy drinks if you have a medical condition like heart disease or diabetes. Read the label for serving sizes, caffeine content and other information. To prevent unwanted interactions, avoid combining energy drinks with other stimulants like caffeine or pseudoephedrine. If you find it difficult to stop using energy drinks, gradually reducing your caffeine intake over several weeks may make it easier by preventing severe withdrawal symptoms.