While consumers are told energy drinks “keep you going,” doctors have been warning for years about health risks, but it could be hard kicking the cans to the curb.
Doctors said energy drinks are hard to skip once they become part of a routine.
“It's much like people who smoke cigarettes, you get used to having the can, with cigarettes, the problem is, people like having that thing in their hand. They like having it in their mouth. It is an addiction,” said Stefanie Bourassa of the Hartford Hospital Rehabilitation Network.
The energy drinks are packed with sugar and caffeine, along with other ingredients like guarana, which also works as a stimulant, and may be why people grab the energy drink when they need a quick “pick me up.”
“I'm definitely a caffeine junkie,” said Justin Kriedeman of Mansfield, who has been drinking Monster energy drinks for the past five years.
“Usually two a night, and then two in the morning,” the college student said, adding that the drinks help keep him alert.
But, what happens when you can’t get by without skipping an energy drink?
“You get that feeling of being up, and that feeling of being up, you're getting more things done, you're running around, you're feeling energized. And the lull is even worse,” Bourassa said.
Once your energy level bottoms out, Bourassa said “then it becomes, ‘well, I've had one, and I felt great, so let me have two so then I don't get the lull. Let's have three so I don't get the lull’.”
When people try to give up the energy drinks, the symptoms can be very uncomfortable, bringing on headaches, vomiting, irritability, sleep issues, and muscle pains.
Caffeine blocks brain chemicals that help a person sleep, and it also fires off neurons to keep the person alert.
It triggers an increase in dopamine, which tricks the brain into believing they have more energy than they actually do.
In the blood stream, adrenaline is released, signaling the liver to pump more glucose, to beef up energy.
The adrenaline makes the heart beat faster.
The body can start to feel jittery and anxious if you overdo it, but if you are addicted, energy drinkers may feel the onset of symptoms if they skip a drink.
“Anything in moderation is ok, but it's when you need it and you're getting the effects multiple times a day, that's when it becomes a problem,” Bourassa said.
Some said skipping the drinks will avoid the problem altogether.
“Don’t buy them, don’t drink them. It’s easy,” said Stephen Fontana of Colchester.
Before giving up energy drinks, it may be a good idea to talk to a doctor who can help you figure out the best way to ween off of them, and find healthier ways to feel energized.
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