She often walks into her local CVS, needing a little pick-me-up after a long night. Heading straight to the refrigerated aisle, Natalie Nuñez is feeling for an energy drink. She leaves the store and takes a swig of the caffeinated beverage. Surely, she will crave the taste and may get another one later in the day.
“I usually drink energy drinks because it gives me a zing and keeps me up,” says the 17-year-old from Dorchester.
Nuñez is one of many teens who turn to energy drinks when looking for a boost. These drinks are now consumed by 30 percent to 50 percent of adolescents and young adults, according to “Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults,” a 2011 article published in the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Popular energy drinks like Monster, Rockstar, and Red Bull are known to target young people, but health advocates ask: at what cost?
According to critics, side effects of these drinks include high blood pressure, heartrelated problems, and seizures.
In the worst cases, a caffeine overload can lead to death.
Of 5,448 caffeine overdoses reported in the US in 2007, 46 percent occurred in those younger than 19, according to the 2011 article.
“I’m aware of the health risks, but despite that, sometimes I feel like I need it for a boost if I can’t find coffee,” says Nuñez. “The taste is kind of addicting, too.”
Energy drinks are available to minors in local beverage cases. Energy-drink companies defend their products as safe, but also note the warning labels.
“Monster has a commitment to being responsible and wants to be transparent about the ingredients in their products,” Monster Energy spokeswoman Tammy Taylor told CNN in March.
Furthermore, Taylor said, Monster does not recommend children, pregnant women, or those sensitive to caffeine consume its beverages. “That recommendation is on the labels of all Monster products,” she said.
Despite the lurking dangers of energy drinks, teens are still drawn to them.
For Justin Cruthird, a 17-year-old at the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science, the appeal does not lie in any extra oomph.
“They don’t usually make me feel like I’m getting energy,” says Cruthird. “It’s really more for taste, and they’re easily accessible when I want them.”