Energy drinks a public health problem?

That’s what the Obama administration says. The American Beverage Association begs to differ.

In its new report entitled “Emergency Department Visits Involving Energy Drinks“, the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration says,

… Consumption of energy drinks is a rising public health problem because medical and behavioral consequences can result from excessive caffeine intake. A growing body of scientific evidence documents harmful effects, particularly for children, adolescents, and young adults. Among college students, associations have been established between energy drink consumption and problematic behaviors such as marijuana use, sexual risk taking, fighting, smoking, drinking, and prescription drug misuse. In one study, bar patrons who consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks were 3 times more likely to leave a bar highly intoxicated and were 4 times more likely to intend to drive while intoxicated than those who did not consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks. This latter finding may be because the high levels of caffeine found in energy drinks can mask the symptoms associated with being intoxicated (e.g., feeling lethargic). Individuals, especially youthful drinkers, may incorrectly believe that consumption of caffeine can “undo” the effects of alcohol intake and make it safe to drive after drinking. The popularity of energy drinks—coupled with the burgeoning literature suggesting the risks involved with their use—underscore the importance of gaining additional information about these beverages.

Below is the American Beverage Association response to the SAMHSA study:

November 22, 2011
ABA Press Office
(202) 463-6770

Beverage Industry Responds to DAWN Report on Energy Drinks

In response to “Emergency Department Visits Involving Energy Drinks,” a paper appearing in today’s issue of The DAWN Report, the American Beverage Association issued the following statement:


“This paper is a troubling example of statistics taken out of context. The number of emergency room visits by people who consumed energy drinks, as reported in the paper, represented less than one one-hundredth of one percent of all emergency visits. In addition, this report shares no information about the overall health of those who allegedly consumed energy drinks, or even what symptoms brought them to the ER in the first place. Furthermore, it shows that nearly half of those who visited the emergency room had consumed alcohol or taken illegal substances or pharmaceuticals, making their consumption of energy drinks potentially irrelevant.

There is nothing unique about the ingredients in energy drinks, including caffeine. In fact, most mainstream energy drinks contain about half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee. So if you are enjoying a coffee at the corner coffeehouse, you are getting about twice as much caffeine as you would from an energy drink.”
Additional Background Information:

On the Report:

  • According to the most recent available annual data from CDC, 123.8 million visits were made to emergency room facilities. Source:
  • It’s important to note that, according to the data in this report, in 2009 the number of emergency room visits allegedly due to energy drinks declined from the previous year.
  • DAWN is intended to monitor drug-related emergency department visits, not the alleged effects of consuming non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Furthermore, despite the suggestion in the report, caffeine is not a drug.
  • The authors state that “most clinicians” assess moderate intake of caffeine at 100-200 mg per day; however, leading public health organizations note that moderate caffeine consumption is less than 300 mg per day.
  • Furthermore, this report does not show that energy drinks cause misuse of alcohol, pharmaceuticals or illicit drugs.

On Caffeine:

  • Caffeine is safe, and is one of the most thoroughly tested ingredients in the food supply today.
  • Caffeine has been thoroughly tested, and has been deemed safe by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as well as more than 140 countries around the world.
  • Consistent with federal regulations, beverage companies list caffeine on product labels when it is added as an ingredient. And for years, ABA member companies have voluntarily provided caffeine content information through their Web sites and consumer hotlines. In addition, some of our member companies voluntarily list the amount of caffeine directly on a product’s label.

On Energy Drinks:

  • ABA member companies manufacture non-alcoholic beverages, including energy drinks.
  • Energy drinks and their ingredients are safe and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • It’s important to keep the caffeine content of energy drinks in perspective. Most mainstream energy drinks contain about half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee.
  • Energy drinks typically contain 60-100 mg of caffeine per 8-ounce serving, whereas a similar size coffeehouse coffee generally contains 104-192 mg.
  • Energy drinks are non-alcoholic beverages that are specifically marketed with an energizing effect and a unique combination of characterizing ingredients. While their ingredients and labeling comply fully with all regulatory requirements, they are not intended for young consumers.
  • Importantly, our member companies market and distribute all of their beverages responsibly. As an association, we have adopted a number of voluntary policies pertaining to energy drinks over the last several years. These are outlined in the ABA Guidance for the Responsible Labeling and Marketing of Energy Drinks, which is available on the ABA website at–science/energy-drink-guidance.

On Alcohol and Drug Abuse:

  • Our industry agrees that alcohol and drug abuse are serious public health problems. However, they will not be addressed by focusing on non-alcoholic beverages.

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The American Beverage Association is the trade association representing the broad spectrum of companies that manufacture and distribute non-alcoholic beverages in the United States. For more information on ABA, please visit the association’s Web site at or call the ABA communications team at (202) 463-6770.

2 thoughts on “Energy drinks a public health problem?”

  1. Did anyone else notice the bait and switch going on here. First they talk about the risks of high caffine consumption then switch to alcohol/energy drink risks.
    In any case, many many many moons ago, when I was in college, I engaged in massive caffine consumption, marijuana use, sexual risk taking, fighting, smoking, drinking (but no prescription drug misuse, just over the counter drug abuse.) Ah, good times, good times.
    Energy drinks hadn’t been invented yet, but coffee sure was. Seeing how I didn’t really start consuming java seriously until my senior year, I don’t believe it is the gateway drug/enabler envisioned.

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