When can energy drinks cause problems?
Energy drinks are a common staple in the diet of many Americans, but they could be a concern for members of the military.
A recent study released by the Military Medical Journal reported that energy drinks can be troubling for veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The report noticed that drinking two 12-ounce energy drinks a day can lead to an increase in:
- Mental health problems
- Aggressive behavior
The study went on to highlight that service men and women diagnosed with PTSD who continued to consume energy drinks after returning home found the drinks made them feel irritable. The results seem to support the findings of similar studies on daily caffeine consumption that have shown anxiety and depression were more common in individuals who drank moderate to high amounts of caffeinated beverages compared to those who avoided caffeine completely. In fact, any type of beverage, whether it be an energy drink or café-style coffee, with over 400 mg of caffeine, can lead to symptoms of:
- Rapid heart beat
Dr. Gregory Burek, a psychiatrist with the Veterans Retraining Program at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital, says that helping veterans transition back to life state-side can have many challenges.
“As a veteran myself, I feel that understanding this culture is essential to helping veterans achieve and maintain a healthy and fulfilling life,” Dr. Burek says. “Sleep deprivation is a mission essential skill that each member of the military is trained in from their first days in basic training. Servicemembers learn to use a variety of available stimulants to stay focused and mission ready. It’s a part of the culture.”
“When a soldier, marine, sailor or airman is deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, they may get used to sleeping only 4-5 hours per night and using energy drinks, coffee or other stimulants to compensate,” he says. “A major drawback to this is when they return from deployment, their sleep often does not return to normal right away, and they may continue the pattern of sleep deprivation and stimulant use.”
“While the study focused on energy drinks, there are plenty of other beverages that can have just as much caffeine including specialty coffee drinks and some sodas that can have the same physiological effect on the body,” continues Dr. Burek. “A mixture of sleep deprivation and stimulant use will certainly exacerbate PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks and other mental health condition, but more importantly, it may be a sign of trying to cope with one of these illnesses.”
Whenever treating a military servicemember or veteran, Dr. Burek believes it is essential to complete a comprehensive sleep assessment which includes use of energy drinks, over-the-counter products and other stimulants.
“Identifying and treating ongoing sleep issues and helping veterans to regain healthy sleep patterns is a major part of our practice in Veterans Retraining Program,” he says.
About the Author
Carla Basiliere, health enews contributor, is a seasoned communications professional with over 15 years of experience in the health care industry. Carla has a BS degree in Mass Communications from the University of Minnesota Mankato. In her free time, Carla enjoys spending time outdoors with family and friends.