The NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, is working with Swanswell, a national drug and alcohol recovery charity, to raise awareness of the potential impact of energy drinks on the behaviour of children and young people.
Both organisations believe that the Government needs to commission independent research into energy drink use and the long-term effects on health.
Emerging findings from the analysis of the NASUWT’s 2016 Annual Big Question Survey show 13% of the thousands of teachers who have responded cite the use of caffeine and energy drinks as a driver of poor pupil behaviour.
National guidelines on recommended consumption levels of caffeine for children are needed to help tackle pupil behaviour problems in schools which are being fuelled by consumption of energy drinks such as Monster, Relentless and Red Bull.
There is concern that energy drink consumption can be linked to the use of other substances such as cannabis in some cases. Swanswell have evidence that some young cannabis users experience a ‘cycle’ effect by taking the drug and then using energy drinks to give them the boost they need to function in their everyday lives. They then use cannabis to bring them back down from the high that energy drinks create.
The NASUWT and Swanswell have produced initial information to raise awareness among parents, pupils and teachers of the high levels of stimulants which energy drinks contain and their potential impact on children’s behaviour and health.
Energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and sugar but a recent European study found that nearly one in five children who have tried energy drinks think they are the same as cola. A 500ml bottle of cola has almost 40mg of caffeine whereas the same amount of an energy drink has around 160mg of caffeine.
Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:
“For the last two years in our survey teachers have registered concern about the contribution of high energy drinks to poor pupil behaviour as a result of consuming excessive quantities of these drinks.
“These drinks are popular among young people who often think they are just another soft drink.
“Young people and parents are often not aware of the very high levels of stimulants that these drinks contain.
“They are readily available legal highs sold in vending machines, supermarkets and corner shops. Their packaging and marketing makes them attractive.
“Working with Swanswell, the NASUWT is pleased to be able to release initial guidance to start the process of awareness raising among parents, pupils and schools.”
Debbie Bannigan, Chief Executive of Swanswell, said:
“We’ve joined up with the NASUWT to provide parents, teachers and students with information about the hidden harm of energy drinks. Affordable and available to most children, they can consume 160mg of caffeine in one drink, compared to 32mg in a can of cola. Energy drinks can affect performance at school and lead to risky behaviour. We’ve even seen examples in our service of children taking cannabis to offset up to 800mg of caffeine a day.”
She added: “Unlike other countries there’s no official guidance on caffeine consumption for children in the UK. That’s why we’d like the government to commission independent research into the long-term health impact of energy drinks. This would enable them to publish evidence-based guidelines on the maximum amount of caffeine it’s safe for children to drink. Parents and children could then make an informed decision about their caffeine consumption.”
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