Swanswell and the NASUWT warn pupils about the hidden harm of energy drinks during exam season

27 May 2016

Swanswell, a national alcohol and drug recovery charity and the NASUWT, the UK’s largest teaching union are warning pupils about the risks of using energy drinks as a way of getting through their exams.

Marketed for their effects as a stimulant, energy drinks such as Monster, Relentless and Red Bull contain high levels of caffeine. This is an alkaloid which stimulates the central nervous system and is known for giving energy or a boost.

Readily available to children, a 500ml drink typically contains around 160mg of caffeine, double that found in a soft drink like coca-cola. Yet many parents and children think that energy drinks are just like soft drinks.

However, too much caffeine can lead to poor pupil behaviour and health problems including insomnia, heart palpitations and high blood pressure. Swanswell have even seen evidence that some children are using cannabis to come down from energy drinks.

Swanswell and the NASUWT are calling on the government to commission independent research into energy drink use and the long-term effects on health. In the meantime, they’ve joined up to produce a fact sheet for parents, teachers and pupils. It’s available at: http://bit.ly/1VWLk3H and provides information about the hidden harm of energy drinks.

Swanswell’s Chief Executive Debbie Bannigan said; ‘Energy drinks are cheap and there’s no restriction on how many of them a child can buy. Although they look like soft drinks they’re not. In fact, too much caffeine can lead to a range of health problems and can actually affect a child’s performance in school.’

She added; ‘In Canada the government recommend that children do not exceed 85mg of caffeine a day - yet a child can drink double that amount in a single energy drink. So why isn’t there more information and advice available for parents and children about this hidden harm? Isn’t it time for the government to publish guidelines on how much caffeine it’s safe for children to drink?’

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT said; 'Exam season is inevitably stressful for young people and there is concern that some students may see these energy drinks as a positive way to give themselves a boost during revision or ahead of an exam. However, these drinks contain very high levels of stimulants and caffeine which can have negative impacts on young people’s mood and behaviour, particularly when consumed in excessive quantities.'

She added; 'Students and parents need to be aware that energy drinks are not like other soft drinks. The joint guidance produced by the NASUWT and Swanswell aims to help to raise awareness of the risks involved in consuming these drinks to help young people and their parents make informed choices.'         

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