How do we keep our kids away from energizers? Toxicologist: There are young people who arrive at the hospital after two or three doses

Merchants who sell energy drinks to minors risk fines of up to 30,000 lei and the closing of the store, according to a new law passed by Parliament the other day. However, doctors draw attention to the fact that this law is not enough and that there is also a need to educate children about the dangers of consuming these substances.

No more energizers for minors – Photo Archive

The draft law for preventing and combating the effects of the consumption of energy drinks by the population, by which the consumption of such drinks by minors is prohibited, was adopted, on Tuesday, by the plenary session of the Chamber of Deputies, with 238 votes.for“, one “against” and 12 abstentions. Thus, energy drinks can no longer be sold to minors either at stores or through soft drink vending machines. They will also disappear from commercial spaces near schools, hospitals or institutions intended for the special protection of certain categories of disadvantaged people.

According to the law, energy drinks are drinks that contain various combinations of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, with two or more substances, such as caffeine, taurine, carnitine, guarana, glucuronolactone and other compounds with a stimulating effect on the central nervous system. The project introduces fines for economic operators who violate these provisions of up to 30,000 lei, depending on the gravity of the act. In case of repetition of the contraventions provided by the project, the measure of suspending the activity of the public premises for a period between 10 and 30 days is also ordered.

In our country, energy drinks are very popular among young people. An EFSA study shows that 30% of adults, 68% of teenagers and already 18% of children under the age of 10 consume various types of energy drinks. And the adverse effects are numerous, including anxiety, sleep problems, dizziness, increased blood pressure, but also an increased risk of developing mental health problems.

It degrades neurons

Energizers contain carbohydrates, which provide an energy boost and create a state of energy through the presence of carbohydrates, they also contain caffeine, which accelerates mental processes, especially those of attention, thinking. They also contain certain amino acids, which are part of excitatory neurotransmitters and activate brain processes. All these effects appear when the body needs rest, it is an artificial psychic energy, an excess stimulation of cognitive processes. What happens in the medium and long term: the state of exhaustion occurs, there is a degradation of the neurons that are subjected to these excessive stimulations, there is a state of cardiovascular alert, because many of these substances accelerate the activity of the heart, accelerate the pulse, increase the blood pressure and then a progressive exhaustion of the heart occurs. Moreover, the effects are more visible in young people, teenagers or students, where the central nervous system has not completed its activity, it is a developing central nervous system that can be deviated from normal development and we are talking about a sensitivity of the myocardium and the cardiovascular system to this adrenergic stimulation that these substances cause”, explained Radu Țincu, ATI primary physician at the Floreasca Emergency Clinical Hospital, head of the toxicology discipline at the Carol Davila University of Medicine.

A necessary but sufficient law?

The global energy drink market exceeded $53 billion at the end of 2023, and is expected to grow by more than 7% over the next three years, according to experts.

Even just one dose of energy per month can increase the risk of sleep disorders, a recent study shows, according to “The Guardian“. Energy drinks are associated with insomnia and poor quality sleep, according to a Norwegian study of 53,000 18- to 35-year-olds. UK university research links energy drink consumption to depression, anxiety and suicidal feelings. They can also increase a child's risk of experiencing ADHD symptoms.

The measure to ban this drink among minors has also been taken in Latvia and Lithuania, and Finland and Poland could be the next states to introduce this measure.

Radu Țincu says that the law could reduce consumption, if it is respected.

But, I think it is not enough. Of course, banning unhealthy habits is a first step in limiting consumption, but I think that the authorities must develop educational policies, children, young people, the world in general must understand why certain habits are unhealthy, what are the disadvantages of consuming these substances, what are long term effects. I think that what is missing at the moment in health policy is precisely the preventive character, the attempt to explain to people what the negative effects are. I am absolutely convinced that if people understand what the effects are, some of them will stop consuming just because of this information they can receive from the authorities. There should be Medical Education Hour in schools, targeting all these modern unhealthy habits, we are talking about drug use, energizing substances, we can no longer discuss the health education of 20 years ago, because the whole current mentality is changed and there are other customs. It is not only necessary for the students to be informed, we need to start with informing the teaching staff, because many times the teaching staff do not know basic information about such subjects and then they have no way to convey correct information to the students.“, states the doctor.

The opinion of the toxicologist is also shared by Dr. Eduard Adamescu, specialist in diabetes, nutrition and metabolic diseases, who claims that such a law should be accompanied by “an education program that actually shows them the risks they are exposed to“.

Many of the manifestations of adolescents are related to their mental status, the fact that they are dissatisfied, the search for alternatives that give them a concern or a degree of satisfaction, in the absence of other satisfactions, is a wider context, in which the use of drugs also increases and alcohol consumption. It may be a component of psychological changes in this generation of teenagers that leads to such addictions”added doctor Eduard Adamescu related to the addiction of some teenagers to unhealthy foods or energy drinks.

The mechanisms by which they give addiction

On the other hand, the combination of substances present in energy drinks can lead to addiction, and the most exposed are children, teenagers and young people.

“Unfortunately, they are addictive. First of all because they contain carbohydrates, and we all know that sugar is an addictive molecule. And we know one more thing, these drinks achieve a reward mechanism: when we know that we are tired and can no longer concentrate very well, we know that if we drink such an energizing substance, the state of fatigue disappears. At the level of the brain, this reward mechanism appears, we know that the respective drink rewards us with the appearance of a state of energy and an ability to concentrate. The fact that you can have physical and mental activity for a longer period of time leads to a preventive consumption mechanism. I have seen patients who, without being tired, drink two or three energy drinks a day to somehow maintain their energy state and not end up feeling tired or exhausted. This shows the way in which these substances create addictive mechanisms in the brain either to have better efficiency or because when we are tired and should rest, we drink such a drink and instantly recover.“, said the toxicologist.

Even if we cannot discuss a direct toxicity, the consumption of these drinks remains problematic, and many are not aware of the danger.

COMBINATION dit's carbohydrates, caffeine and excitatory amino acids creates mutual potentiation of these substances. There are young people who arrive at the hospital after two or three energizers a day and who have palpitations, heart rhythm disorders. All these things show how those substances abnormally overload the heart's activity“, Radu Țincu also said.