Disclaimer: The information, articles, and tips portrayed on this blog, while based on research, do not constitute medical advice. The opinions expressed are meant to educate and inform, but not to dictate lifestyle choices or personal beliefs. These articles are meant to provoke thought on issues surrounding college health and to inform the Hopkins community of healthy information and resources.


Weekend Sip Tip: Energy Bust


The University of New Hampshire is considering a plan to ban energy drinks on their campus in the hopes of becoming the "the healthiest campus community".  The health effects of energy drinks have been debated for years. Do you feel it is fair to ban these beverages?

Energy drinks aren't all evil, but they are not created equal.  Some have the caffeine equivalent to a cup of coffee, while others may have 4 cups worth in just one can.  If you drink these, realize what's going into your body.  Many of the products list that their ingredients can have significant health effects, but most of those claims are scientifically unsupported.  Beyond the ingredients are the effects energy drinks can have, which include, sleeplessness, irritability, and nervousness.  Have you seen or experienced some of these symptoms?  Not so pleasant, right?

If energy drinks are mixed with alcohol the effects are not just unpleasant- they are dangerous.  Energy drinks can mask the effects of alcohol. This means a person may not know how drunk they actually are, and can seriously hurt themselves or someone else.  If you choose to drink, avoid these risky situations and try keeping it decaf- and Stop@Buzzed!


Anonymous said...

I accept that energy drinks contain chemicals that have the potential to harm us, and that we should do more scientific studies to determine whether these beverages are actually safe for us to drink.

However, I seriously doubt that we will discover that energy drinks have more severe effects on our health and safety than alcoholic beverages do--just from the standpoint of what each individual drink contains. That is, I believe that the contents of one energy drink is not significantly more harmful to a person's body than the contents of one alcoholic beverage.

Additionally, to the best of my knowledge, energy drink users generally do not drink them in excess, and users do not usually harm others by making the decision to consume an energy drink. If they are harming anyone by consuming them, it is almost certainly themselves. In contrast, alcoholic beverages are frequently overused; it is very common to see students consume very large amounts of alcohol in short periods of time. This threatens not only their own health, but also the health and safety of those around them, especially when they drink enough alcohol to seriously affect their behavior or judgment.

I don't see any colleges making headlines by trying to ban alcohol from their campuses--despite the fact that the potentially deadly consequences of drinking alcohol have been evident for many years.

I find it somewhat illogical to make it a priority to ban energy drinks from a college campus, based on the fear that these drinks MIGHT cause adverse health effects in students, when alcohol, the adverse health effects of which have been
obvious for quite some time, maintains its residence and influence on practically all campuses.

One final point--in the US, it is illegal to buy alcohol if you are under 21. One of the main reasons for this policy is because the health effects of alcohol are significant enough for the government to judge that people under the age of 21 are incapable of drinking alcohol responsibly and safely. Yet a large percentage of college students obtain and consume alcohol, despite the fact that more than half of undergraduate students are under age 21. It is not hard to find evidence that underage drinking on college campuses causes adverse health effects, damages property, hinders academic performance, and exemplifies the danger of abusing alcohol. But I don't see many colleges urgently attempting to eliminate, or even limit, the amount of underage drinking that occurs on their campuses.

Why, then, are energy drinks viewed as such a serious problem on campus? We can argue endlessly about the merit of government policies, but the fact remains that people of any age can purchase energy drinks in the United States. Clearly, the government does not view these novel beverages as dangerous (which is more than can be said for alcoholic beverages).

Before you shake your finger at me for drinking an energy drink to help me stay awake and focused, you should put away your [gin, vodka, beer, wine, rum, whiskey, etc.]--and think about whether the way you obtained it is moral or legal.

CHEW at JHU said...

Thank you for your well-thought out comments! I think you're right that in most cases, energy drinks may not be as harmful to people in contrast to alcoholic beverages, as we see with drunk driving, violent behavior brought on by drinking, etc. However, when combined, the effects are highly dangerous. Combining alcohol and caffeine makes it more difficult for those who are ingesting these liquids to feel the true impact of the alcohol on their system, causing them to ignore their bodies' prompts to stop drinking when their BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) reaches dangerous levels. At high BAC levels, normally the body would find ways to make the person stop drinking either by passing out, vomiting, etc. The caffeine in energy drinks prevents the body from receiving these signals, and allows the person to continue drinking, sometimes leading to fatal consequences. While alcohol use and misuse is a real issue that college campuses continue to struggle with, the energy drinks effects on the body also pose a real risk.

Also, it appears that some schools take a similar stance to yours on alcohol by becoming a "dry" campus. Being a dry campus means that alcohol is not allowed on campus grounds under any circumstance; including age, location, event, etc. So this means, if a group of people over the age of 21 wanted to have a glass of wine with dinner while on a dry campus, they could not. Some feel that this stance works well, while others do not agree.

Drinking alcohol under the age of 21 is illegal, but we understand that it may still happen. What we've learned about Hopkins students is that while some choose to drink underage, the majority do not binge drink (consume 4-5 drinks in an hour). Many of those who choose to drink remember to stop@buzzed.

Anonymous said...

"Beyond the ingredients are the effects energy drinks can have, which include, sleeplessness, irritability, and nervousness."

Well, yes, this is the same thing that caffeine can elicit, and it's typically why people drink it...

Caffeine has been "scientifically demonstrated" (though given the integrity and nuance involved in most such scientific studies I feel a bit silly using those words) to have positive health effects among athletes, the elderly, and the average person. There has been no link between even moderate-to-heavy caffeine consumption (on the order of 400+mg a day, with the average coffee cup containing around 120mg or so).

Most other ingredients in these energy drinks are innocuous (if they were ANYTHING but, the drinks would have to be FDA-approved) even in large doses: things like taurine, guarana, etc.

It's even more to attempt to ban energy drinks on campus as it is to ban smoking. People can make the claim that "second-hand smoke" can cause health problems for other students (which is a pretty bad argument unless these students are smoking in very small classrooms with other students for several hours a day), but even then, it's not the college's role to impose arbitrary restrictions on students' lifestyles for some P.R. campaign or admissions brochure fodder.