Energy Drink Abuse and Addiction
Energy drink addiction affects more people every year. Many people see energy drinks as a harmless addiction, but they can cause serious problems. Used in excess, they damage physical and mental health, and put a strain on relationships. People have also died from consuming too many energy drinks.
This article will give you the specifics on the effects of energy drinks and how people can become addicted. You’ll also find out the signs of energy drink addiction, the ingredients that might cause you harm, and how to stop.
How does energy drink addiction start?
The beginnings of energy drink addiction follow a pattern similar to other addictions. An energy drink consumer may start drinking the drinks occasionally. They might have one or two a day because they enjoy the effect. As time goes on, the user starts drinking energy drinks to make themselves feel better when they are low. They begin drinking more, and their tolerance increases.
As weeks and months go by, the user may start to experience problems with their physical health. Their blood sugar levels may become unstable, they might start losing weight and their teeth may start rotting from the high amounts of sugar being consumed.
Their mental health can begin suffering too. Constantly being amped up on energy drinks can cause anxiety to spiral, and when they stop drinking they become depressed. Someone susceptible may even start to experience psychosis.
While energy drinks are clearly not as expensive as other stimulants, finances can be affected. The average energy drink costs about £1.50. If the user drinks 7 drinks a day, this works out at over £10 per day, or £300 per month. This is not a negligible amount, and will cause some people to feel financial difficulty.
Anyone who has abused stimulants in the past should be able to recognize this pattern of use. People susceptible to addiction are likely to repeat the same cycle of addiction with different substances and behaviours. As someone grows in their recovery, it becomes a little easier to spot these patterns, and break them before they are seriously negatively impacted.
What happens in the brain during energy drink addiction
The sugar and stimulants in energy drinks cause dopamine, a feel-good chemical, to be released in the brain. When energy drinks are abused often, the receptors for dopamine become downgraded. This means that more energy drinks are needed for the same effect. Once dependency has set in, drinking energy drinks becomes a necessity, just to feel normal.
Upon cessation of energy drinks, there will be a period of withdrawal from caffeine and the other stimulants that these drinks contain. When the brain is not receiving as much dopamine and is also not as receptive to dopamine as it was, depression and lethargy can set in. This period of withdrawal should not last long and normal brain functioning should resolve between a few days to a couple of weeks.
During withdrawal from energy drinks a person is likely to feel irritable, have low mood, and may sleep a lot. This is completely normal and is part of the recovery process.
How can I stop an energy drink addiction?
The first step is admitting you have a problem. Once you have done this, you can begin to take action.
Write a list
You can start by writing a list of all the things that you stand to gain if you quit, and another list outlining what you might lose if you do not stop. When quitting gets tough, come back to this list for renewed determination.
Talk with someone about your energy drink addiction
Speaking with a friend, family member or someone in recovery can help you to clarify your thoughts and intentions. Speak openly about your energy drink consumption, and your desire to quit. If the person you speak with is in recovery, they will probably have been in a similar situation. They might be able to talk about how they overcame their addiction and advise you accordingly.
This person can also act as an accountability buddy. They can give you pep talks when the going gets tough and can sympathise with what you are going through.
Set a date to quit your energy drink addiction
Setting an exact date when you will stop drinking energy drinks or start tapering gives you a clear day when you will stop.
As you may feel down, agitated or irritable when you quit, pick a date where you will not be under too much stress. You might choose to stop on a Saturday, so you don’t have to work when the unpleasant symptoms and cravings are at their worst.
On the day that you quit, you should not have any more energy drinks in the house. Check cupboards and all the fridge compartments. This is important, as if you find one while you are going through withdrawal, it may cause you to relapse.
Tell the people you are around what you are going to do. This will help them understand if you are acting a little tetchy, and gives you further accountability.
Ways to quit an energy drink addiction
There are two distinct ways to stop an energy drink addiction. These are:
Cold turkey. Quitting cold turkey means stopping drinking energy drinks abruptly. This is the method that is usually recommended for people quitting stimulants. The withdrawal from cold turkey will be more pronounced than with tapering, but it will be over quicker. It is often the only way that is achievable when a person suffers from addiction and does not have the power to taper off their drinking.
Tapering. Tapering involves gradually reducing the number of energy drinks that you consume. To do this, you should create a taper plan to follow. Reducing your energy drinks over a number of days until you reach zero.
It is important to stick to a taper plan as if you falter from it, you reduce the chance of successfully quitting.
Whichever method you choose, do not beat yourself up if you relapse. If this happens, you can learn from the experience. Look back and try and figure out what caused you to relapse. It may have been a triggering person, a difficult emotion, or you may not have been exercising self-care. Whatever it was, take the lesson on board and adapt your plan to reduce the chance of relapse happening in the future.
What are energy drinks made from?
It’s not just caffeine that provides the energy boost in energy drinks. Most energy drinks also have high levels of sugar, and a range of ingredients designed to increase your alertness. Common ingredients in energy drinks include:
Caffeine is a stimulant that is found in many different foods and drinks, including coffee, tea and chocolate. It is one of the most common ingredients in energy drinks. Caffeine can help to improve alertness and performance, but it also has side effects like jitteriness, anxiety and insomnia. Too much caffeine can also be dangerous and can lead to problems such as heart palpitations and an irregular heartbeat. You should avoid ingesting more than 200mg of caffeine a day.
People in recovery often drink more caffeine than the recommended 200mg a day. They may find that they intend to only drink one coffee, but as the coffee wears off they start drinking another. The amounts of caffeine in different drinks vary. The average single-shot espresso contains between 30mg and 50mg, an 8-oz coffee from Starbucks has 180mg of caffeine and a can of original flavor monster energy drink has 160mg. There are some energy drinks with far higher levels of caffeine.
Note that while energy drinks may not always have particularly high levels of caffeine, they do have other stimulants. Some of these are listed below.
Sugar helps to provide a quick boost of energy. However, too much sugar can lead to weight gain and other health problems such as diabetes.
Sugar is another substance that people in recovery often have an issue with. It is common for some to binge on sugar in a way that mirrors previous substance abuse. Some people in recovery find that the only way to stop these binges is to eliminate refined sugar from their diets. Sugar also contributes towards energy drink addiction.
Guarana is a plant that is native to Brazil and Venezuela. It contains high levels of caffeine, which can help to improve energy levels and mental alertness. However, it can also cause side effects such as anxiety and insomnia when consumed in large amounts.
Ginseng is a herb that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. It has a range of health benefits, including improved energy levels and immunity. However, it can also cause side effects such as headaches, dizziness and gastrointestinal problems.
B vitamins are essential nutrients that are found in many foods, including meats, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. They are also added to some energy drinks. B vitamins are important for a range of body functions, including energy production and metabolism.
Creatine is an amino acid that is found in meat and fish. It is often used as a supplement by athletes to help improve performance, but it can also be found in some energy drinks. Creatine can help to improve energy levels, but it can also cause side effects such as weight gain, irritability and kidney damage.
Taurine is an amino acid that is found in meat and fish. It is often added to energy drinks because it is thought to improve mental alertness and physical performance. Side effects of too much taurine include nausea, headaches and even difficulty walking.
Green tea extract
Green tea extract is a source of caffeine and antioxidants. It is often added to energy drinks for its stimulant effects and health benefits. However, green tea extract can also cause side effects such as stomach upset and anxiety.
Ginkgo biloba is an herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It improves blood circulation and mental alertness. However, it can also cause side effects such as headaches and gastrointestinal problems.
Yohimbine is a chemical that is found in the bark of the yohimbe tree, which is native to Africa. It is sometimes added to energy drinks to improve energy levels and physical performance. However, yohimbine can also cause side effects such as anxiety, high blood pressure and heart palpitations.
Energy drink addiction in recovery communities
Energy drinks are popular in recovery communities. As with all substances, they can cause problems when used in excess. If you are in recovery and find yourself using energy drinks compulsively, you may want to look at why you are doing this. Is there a difficult feeling that you are trying to avoid, or, have you become bored with recovery?
You may be trying to replace the feeling of drugs or alcohol with energy drinks. While these drinks are usually less damaging than these other substances, they can still cause harm. Is it possible for you to replace them with a healthy activity that gives you an adrenaline rush instead?
You may be using energy drinks to give you a boost of energy so that you can work harder. Workaholism affects many people who are in recovery. The problem with using energy drinks in this way is that it can lead to burnout. Consider reducing the hours that you work rather than burning the candle at both ends. In the long run, your body and mind will thank you for it.
Stop your energy drink addiction today
Having the occasional energy drink is unlikely to cause you any problems. But if you are the kind of person who starts drinking energy drinks and cannot stop, the best thing to do is not start. Abusing these drinks can really mess with your body and mind
- 10 Common Energy Drink Ingredients: What You Need to Know - https://www.eatingwell.com/article/278049/10-common-energy-drink-ingredients-what-you-need-to-know/
- Are Energy Drinks Addictive? What to Know and How to Quit - https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/energy-drink-addiction
- Are energy drinks addictive to kids? https://www.verywellmind.com/effects-of-energy-drinks-21843
- Energy drinks NHS https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/energy-drinks