Between extra curricular activities like sports, an afterschool job, and a backpack full of homework, as a parent of a busy teenager, you may consider yourself to be lucky if you see your teen at all. Like millions of other young people, your teenager may drink one of the many popular energy drinks from time to time to keep going. If you’re bothered by your teen’s consumption of the sugary and highly caffeinated drink, there’s another reason to urge your teenager to stop drinking energy drinks. Recent studies suggest that teens who drink energy drinks may be more likely to have a traumatic brain injury.
Link Between Energy Drinks and TBIs
If your teen drinks an energy drink every now and then it doesn’t automatically mean that he or she will suffer a head injury, but according to a recent Canadian study published in PLOS ONE, the chances may be greater. Researchers theorize that young people who drink energy drinks on a regular basis may be bigger risk takers which may result in traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Think of the advertising that surrounds energy drinks. It isn’t targeted to the young people who spend their time studying, but rather those who are into extreme sports or young people who want to be “wild” or the life of a party.
Additionally, teens who reported having a TBI in the past year were 7 times more likely to report drinking at least five energy drinks within a week. The data is compared to teens, within the same age group, who did not have a TBI. Even more troubling results from the study reveal that of the 10,272 teens, between 7th and 12th grade, those who had experienced a TBI within a year were more likely to drink energy drinks mixed with alcohol. Not only is that behavior problematic in terms of underage drinking, but the level of caffeine in energy drinks masks alcohol making it harder to determine when to stop drinking alcohol.
Given the information revealed in the study, there could be a strong argument that alcohol is really the issue when it comes to teens and TBIs, but more research needs to be done. Researchers conclude that energy drinks with a high amount of caffeine and alcohol, both consumed on their own, can have damaging effects on a developing brain. Remember, the brain doesn’t fully develop until mid-20s to early 30s. Any damage that occurs during the development stages can be permanent. Energy drinks and alcohol can have the same effects on the brains as illicit drugs. Not only can it affect a young person’s brain, but also damage overall health and lead to death.
What Can You Do?
As a parent, it may be difficult to take control of your teen’s energy drink consumption, particularly if he or she has a busy extra curricular or social life. The best way to encourage healthy habits is by modeling healthy habits. When you have an open and honest discussion with your teen about drug use and other risky behaviors, incorporate energy drink use into the discussion. If your son or daughter plays sports or stays up late doing homework, encourage natural ways of boosting energy through foods, water, or even caffeinated tea or a small cup of coffee. You can’t keep your teen away from the world of energy drinks, but you can help him or her know the potential dangers.