Energy Drinks Linked to Risky Behavior By Teens

May 28, 2008

Health researchers have identified a surprising new predictor for risky behavior among teenagers and young adults: the energy drink.

Read this excellent article by Tara Parker-Pope that appeared in yesterday’s  International Herald Tribune….

Super-caffeinated energy drinks, with names like Red Bull, Monster, Full Throttle and Amp, have surged in popularity in the past decade. About a third of 12- to 24-year-olds say they regularly down energy drinks, which account for more than $3 billion in annual sales in the United States.

The trend has been the source of growing concern among health researchers and school officials. Around the country, the drinks have been linked with reports of nausea, abnormal heart rhythms and emergency room visits.

In Colorado Springs, several high school students last year became ill after drinking Spike Shooter, a high caffeine drink, prompting the principal to ban the beverages. In March, four middle school students in Broward County, Florida, went to the emergency room with heart palpitations and sweating after drinking the energy beverage Redline. In Tigard, Oregon, teachers this month sent parents e-mail alerting them that students who brought energy drinks to school were “literally drunk on a caffeine buzz or falling off a caffeine crash.”

New research suggests the drinks are associated with a health issue far more worrisome than the jittery effects of caffeine — risk taking.

In March, The Journal of American College Health published a report on the link between energy drinks, athletics and risky behavior. The study’s author, Kathleen Miller, an addiction researcher at the University of Buffalo, says it suggests that high consumption of energy drinks is associated with “toxic jock” behavior, a constellation of risky and aggressive behaviors including unprotected sex, substance abuse and violence.

The finding doesn’t mean the drinks cause bad behavior. But the data suggest that regular consumption of energy drinks may be a red flag for parents that their children are more likely to take risks with their health and safety. “It appears the kids who are heavily into drinking energy drinks are more likely to be the ones who are inclined toward taking risks,” Miller said.

The American Beverage Association says its members don’t market energy drinks to teenagers. “The intended audience is adults,” said Craig Stevens, a spokesman. He says the marketing is meant for “people who can actually afford the two or three bucks to buy the products.”

The drinks include a variety of ingredients in different combinations: plant-based stimulants like guarana, herbs like ginkgo and ginseng, sugar, amino acids including taurine as well as vitamins. But the main active ingredient is caffeine.

Caffeine content varies. A 12-ounce serving of Amp contains 107 milligrams of caffeine, compared with 34 to 38 milligrams for the same amount of Coca-Cola or Pepsi. Monster has 120 milligrams and Red Bull has 116. Higher on the spectrum, Spike Shooter contains 428 milligrams of caffeine in 12 ounces, and Wired X344 contains 258.

Stevens points out that “mainstream” energy drinks often have less caffeine than a cup of coffee. At Starbucks, the caffeine content varies depending on the drink, from 75 milligrams in a 12-ounce cappuccino or latte to as much as 250 milligrams in a 12-ounce brewed coffee.

One concern about the drinks is that because they are served cold, they may be consumed in larger amounts and more quickly than hot coffee drinks, which are sipped. Another worry is the increasing popularity of mixing energy drinks with alcohol. The addition of caffeine can make alcohol users feel less drunk, but motor coordination and visual reaction time are just as impaired as when they drink alcohol by itself, according to an April 2006 study in the medical journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

“You’re every bit as drunk, you’re just an awake drunk,” said Mary Claire O’Brien, associate professor in the departments of emergency medicine and public health services at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

O’Brien surveyed energy drink and alcohol use among college students at 10 universities in North Carolina. The study, published this month in Academic Emergency Medicine, showed that students who mixed energy drinks with alcohol got drunk twice as often as those who consumed alcohol by itself and were far more likely to be injured or require medical treatment while drinking. Energy drink mixers were more likely to be victims or perpetrators of aggressive sexual behavior. The effect remained even after researchers controlled for the amount of alcohol consumed.

Energy drink marketers say they don’t encourage consumers to mix the drinks with alcohol. Michelle Naughton, a spokeswoman for PepsiCo, which markets Amp, said, “We expect consumers to enjoy our products responsibly.”

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Quiting Pot Smoking Not Always Easy According to Study

May 16, 2008

A study of heavy marijuana users found that about one-third reported resuming use of the drug to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms, according to researcher David Gorelick, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Heavy pot users should be aware that they may experience a withdrawal syndrome that will make them uncomfortable when they try to quit,” he said.

WebMD reported May 7 that Gorelick said at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association that the study involving about 500 heavy, long-term marijuana users — about a quarter of whom reported smoking marijuana more than 10,000 times during their lifetime — found that 42.4 percent of those studied reported at least one symptom of withdrawal, such as cravings, irritability, boredom, anxiety, or sleep disturbances when they abstained from use.

Not all of these users, however, resumed marijuana use as a result.

Gorelick said he expects marijuana-withdrawal syndrome to be included as a psychiatric disorder in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, due in 2012.


Kids and Marijuana: An unhealthy combination study finds

May 13, 2008

 

From the Join Together newsletter….

A 10-year study finds that youths who were heavy marijuana users in their teens were more likely than drinkers to have a host of problems later in life, including mental illness, relationship problems, and trouble getting a job.

The Independent reported April 22 that researchers followed 1,900 youths from age 15 to 25 and found that heavy marijuana users were three to six times more likely to use other drugs than those who drank alcohol, and three times more likely to be unemployed or drop out of school.

“Cannabis really does look like the drug of choice for life’s future losers,” said lead researcher George Patton of the Melbourne University Center for Adolescent Health.

The study was published in the April 2007 issue of the journal Addiction.


Women Catching Up to Men Having Problems with Alcohol

May 8, 2008

 Alcohol dependence was once much more common among men than women in the U.S., but the gender gap is closing, Reuters reported May 5.

Researchers Richard A. Grucza of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and colleagues said that alcohol consumption and dependence have been rising among white and Hispanic women since the end of World War II, with women born between 1954 and 1963 much more apt to drink and have drinking problems than those born between 1944 and 1953.

“This is particularly disturbing because women with alcohol problems face more severe health-related consequences and possibly more years of life lost than their male counterparts,” the study noted.

“We found that for women born after World War II, there are lower levels of abstaining from alcohol and higher levels of alcohol dependence, even when looking only at women who drank,” Grucza said.

A changing cultural environment that saw more women going to college, entering the workforce, gaining purchasing power and defying gender stereotypes has played a role in alcohol-related trends among women, Grucza added. “They were freer to engage in a range of behaviors that were culturally or practically off-limits, and these behaviors probably would have included excessive drinking and alcohol problems,” he said.