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Energy Drink Lawsuits: Understanding Caffeine

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Baltimore, MDAs far as substances go, energy drinks seem fairly harmless to most people. Need a quick boost of energy, ingest an energy drink and get some much-needed caffeine. People turning to energy drinks might need more caffeine than what a cup of coffee or a soda would provide, but would be forgiven for thinking that the caffeine in an energy drink isn’t any more harmful than the caffeine in a cup of coffee. But energy drink lawsuits allege caffeine overdoses are deadly, and consumers aren’t warned about the risks, especially the risks to adolescents who consume the highly caffeinated beverages.

Perhaps the most high profile of the lawsuits is the suit filed by the family of Anais Fournier, a 14-year-old who drank two energy drinks in two days and later died following cardiac arrest. Her death certificate listed the cause of death as “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity.” Fournier’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Monster Energy, expected to go to trial later this month.

So what’s the problem with the caffeine in energy drinks? According to critics, there are a few issues. First is that energy drinks tend to have higher levels of caffeine than coffee or soda. According to a 2012 Consumer Reports study, energy drinks have up to 242 milligrams of caffeine per serving. Keep in mind that some energy drink cans contain more than one serving. The same article noted that an eight-ounce cup of coffee generally has around 100 milligrams of caffeine.

Safe limits of caffeine are as high as 400 milligrams per day for adults, but as low as 45-85 milligrams per day for children, depending on the child’s weight. A child drinking an energy drink with 242 milligrams of caffeine would receive triple the recommended daily dose. Worse, they would receive that dose all at once, rather than throughout the day.

But the caffeine listed in the label might not be the only caffeine in the drink. A study from the Canadian Journal of Cardiology (3/26/15) noted that some energy drinks contained “masked” caffeine - caffeine that is more highly concentrated than caffeine in coffee. Guarana, for example, is reportedly two times as concentrated as coffee bean caffeine. Meanwhile, other ingredients may interact with caffeine and cause reactions. Finally, the person drinking the energy drink might be on medications, including antibacterial medications or Echinacea, which can reportedly amplify the effects of caffeine.

Caffeine overdose is linked to serious cardiac problems, including arrhythmia.

Lawsuits have been filed against energy drink makers, alleging patients were not properly warned about the risk of heart problems due to consumption of the caffeinated beverages. Earlier this year, two such lawsuits were reportedly settled for undisclosed amounts.


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I went to hospital after drinking Monster energy drink. My heart was racing fast. I felt like I was dying


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