Toxicity of energy drinks

Curr Opin Pediatr. 2012 Apr;24(2):243-51. doi: 10.1097/MOP.0b013e3283506827.


Purpose of review: 'Energy drinks', 'energy shots' and other energy products have exploded in popularity in the past several years; however, their use is not without risk. Caffeine is the main active ingredient in energy drinks, and excessive consumption may acutely cause caffeine intoxication, resulting in tachycardia, vomiting, cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, and death. The effects of chronic high-dose caffeine intake in children and adolescents are unknown. Caffeine may raise blood pressure, disrupt adolescent sleep patterns, exacerbate psychiatric disease, cause physiologic dependence, and increase the risk of subsequent addiction.

Recent findings: Coingestion of caffeine and ethanol has been associated with increased risk-taking behaviors, harm to adolescent users, impaired driving, and increased use of other illicit substances. The toxicity of ingredients often present in energy drinks, such as taurine, niacin, and pyridoxine, is less well defined. Recent and significant literature describing adverse events associated with energy drink use are reviewed.

Summary: Although prior studies have examined the effects of caffeine in adolescents, energy drinks should be considered a novel exposure. The high doses of caffeine, often in combination with ingredients with unknown safety profiles, mandates urgent research on the safety of energy drink use in children and adolescents. Regulation of pediatric energy drink use may be a necessary step once the health effects are further characterized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Caffeine / adverse effects
  • Caffeine / analysis
  • Caffeine / pharmacokinetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced
  • Child
  • Drug Interactions
  • Energy Drinks / adverse effects*
  • Energy Drinks / analysis
  • Ethanol / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / chemically induced
  • Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced


  • Caffeine
  • Ethanol