Energy Drinks

Reporter: David Richardson

Energy drinks - they're said to give you wings, the ultimate pick me up. A drink for the times, so loaded with caffeine, one sip can bring on the buzz.

They're the fastest growing drink in the market worth $4.8 billion a year.

A growth rate of over 400% since 2003.

But what are the facts behind these drinks?

Caffeine content varies from drink to drink, an average serving contains 107 milligrams of caffeine, compared with 34 to 38 milligrams for the same amount of Coca-Cola or Pepsi.

Monster has 120 milligrams and Red Bull has 116.

"There's a real risk in terms of violence, aggression and drink driving. I think people are more likely to get in their car if they had a stimulant because they don't feel as intoxicated and they're more likely to take risks. So I think they should be controlled if not banned" says Addiction Specialist Doctor Ray Seidler. He says there's danger in mixing energy drinks with alcohol.

"You don't realise how intoxicated you are on the alcohol and you can drink more than you do normally - run the risk of sexual misadventure and violence."

"Many countries are now re-assessing these combination drinks, Vodka Red Bulls, Jaiger Bombs - its like taking cocaine and heroine together" adds Dr Seidler. "We've seen the harmful effects of how it can react with your heart so."

But that doesn't deter young people mixing drinks like Red Bull with Vodka. Vanessa, Teeshan and Jamie admit their friends drink anywhere from 1 to 10 cans a night.

"They probably drink a lot more than you should in a night."

"If I do drink a lot of Red Bull in a short space of time I do get heart palpitations and feel a bit wired."

"Its a catch 22, you don't know how much you're drinking when you drink them… you don't really realise. Its like going to the bar and ordering Vodka Soda Water."

But one Australian hospital has found its far from soda water in terms of its effect on the heart. Cardio vascular researchers at the Royal Adelaide Hospital have found that just one can of Red Bull a day can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, even in young people.

"I'm not sort of concerned about it, I'm a young guy - its not really a concern at the moment." Its not that drinkers like Eddie and Steve don't know the dangers... they do... but in their high octane social lives, the ends justifies the means.

"You do know and I'm aware that it is quite bad for you when you go out but if you are feeling really tired you justify it by thinking well, you don't get opportunities all the time - you need to make the most of when you are out."

Rosemary Bourke was horrified to find her 10 year old add grandson gulping one down.

"He would be a raving lunatic, because he suffers with ADHD and he's hypo at the best times because he doesn't take medication."

She says if he had consumed the whole half litre, sales of which are banned to under 16 year olds, the results could have been disastrous.

"I would have taken him to hospital to calm him down. He's hard to handle as it is. With full caffeine in his body I think I would have had problems."

"Children because of their smaller in stature are much more probe to become addicted." Dr Seidler says consumption of energy drinks by children under 16 can turn them crazy. "The caffeine contained in it, in a half litre bottle I think they come in half litre bottles is excessive for children - they can often thrown down 500 mls in one hit, and get quite intoxicated on the caffeine dose that they had."

Rosemary wants them banned altogether. "Yes, there is potential to be a potent drug, because its full of caffeine and for children with the problem he's got - it should be banned."

Local councillor Eddie Sarkis has taken up the case trying to have strict regulations enforced on the drinks. "I've heard of kids passing out, I've heard of kids going to hospital - kids going uncontrollable. These drinks are not intended for their use. They need to regulated and thats what were trying to do."

The Australian Consumers Association has done tests on the beverage. Their finding should serve as a warning to any parent. Christopher Zinn from Choice says "Some of these energy drinks can have 12 teaspoons of sugar in them - more than most soft drinks - they're highly loaded with sugar."