Energy drink: kicking addiction

Can energy drinks be addictive? Of course! Consumption increases every year, especially among young people. What’s worse is that many people consume quite a few cans and soon can’t live without them. An addiction to energy drinks is not only expensive and annoying, but also dangerous to your health. Physical burnout, palpitations, but also heart attacks, diabetes and even death are all possible. Reason enough to kick your addiction to this sweet drink. But how do you find the motivation and how do you kick the habit? Getting rid of an addiction starts with realizing: what are you doing and why is it bad? This makes you motivated, an absolute condition for kicking the habit.


  • News: Girls have their period earlier due to sweet drinks, with risk of breast cancer – Feb. 2015
  • News: Doctors argue for a ban for under 13s, cabinet: sufficient warning – Nov. 2014
  • What is an energy drink?
  • Why do young people in particular drink energy drinks?
  • How does an energy drink work?
  • Energy drinks and their health disadvantages
  • What brands of energy drinks are there?
  • How can you kick the habit of energy drinks?
  • How do you keep up the withdrawal process?
  • After withdrawal

News: Girls have their period earlier due to sweet drinks, with risk of breast cancer – Feb. 2015

Girls who regularly drink sweetened drinks often have their periods earlier than peers who do not use these drinks, often energy drinks. Consumption of one and a half glasses per day usually advances the first menstrual period by 2.7 months, according to a study in Human Reproduction. A girl who gets her period a year earlier would have a 5% higher risk of breast cancer later in life, which is significant. Although ‘only’ 2.7 months would still be safe, the research states that young people often drink much more than 1.5 portions of energy drinks per day. This means that many girls could still fall into the increased risk group.

News: Doctors argue for a ban for under 13s, cabinet: sufficient warning – Nov. 2014

Pediatricians regularly see children who experience the disadvantages of energy drinks for their health, such as liver function disorders, stomach problems and heart problems . The doctors argue for a ban on the sale of energy drinks under the age of thirteen. The popular sweet drinks are banned in 140 secondary schools in the Netherlands, but they are still available in shops for every child with money in their pocket, no matter how young. The government considers the warning ‘not suitable for children and pregnant women’ to be sufficient , and only advocates the dissemination of knowledge about the adverse effects.

What is an energy drink?

Energy drinks, who doesn’t know them yet? The cans that are often consumed several times a day, especially by young people, and whose often sickly sweet smell meets you from afar. Not to be confused with sports drinks:

An energy drink is a drink that can have a stimulating effect on people. There are two types of energy drinks: the so-called sports drinks and drinks intended to improve physical and mental performance.

We are talking about the latter type here: the drinks to stay awake or fit while you are actually tired. Or just because you like the sweet taste. The energy drink available in almost every supermarket usually contains:

  • caffeine: equal to -at least- a cup of coffee
  • taurine: six times the required daily dose
  • sugar or sweetener: 6 sugar cubes

Why do young people in particular drink energy drinks?

Even though energy drinks are also consumed by people who have already left their youth behind, the fact is that youth are the largest consumers. In high school and among students, it is widely used to stay awake and fit during exam time and during the busy study life, which is often supplemented with a part-time job . This often means working long days where fatigue plays a major role. Although most cans contain about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, a can of energy drink is much easier to carry and keep in stock. There are even people who drive with a tray of energy drinks in their car at all times, which they consume during breaks from school, internship or work.

But younger ages are also increasingly drinking these drinks. Acting cool to classmates on the schoolyard with trays or whole stories of “I drink 20 a day”, or with photos on Facebook and Instagram. Energy drinks compete with mobile phones for spending money.

How does an energy drink work?

In the short term, it works as expected for most people. If you are tired and still have a lot to do, an energy drink will quickly give you a boost. You feel new energy and want to get going. The caffeine, but certainly also the sugar, does its work in your body. Hey, many novice drinkers think, that’s nice! Instant energy in a can.

Unfortunately, energy drinks quickly become addictive. Just like people who need many cups of coffee every day, energy drinkers can no longer do without a daily shot. Caffeine and sugar, but certainly also the habit of daily use, quickly become addictive. While studies have shown that people who do not drink caffeine are just as awake and alert as people who do drink caffeine. An average can of energy drink contains easily six lumps of sugar. And sugar is known for being followed by a quick peak and a deep dip that leaves you tired and weak. The temptation to chase them away with a new can is then very great. After all: it worked the first time… And a snowball effect occurs, much to the satisfaction of the manufacturers, of course.

Energy drinks and their health disadvantages

It seems innocent, a can of energy drink that you can buy freely in the supermarket, no matter how young you are. No warning on the packaging like with cigarettes. Then it can’t be that wrong, can it? You are wrong. The high dose of sugar and caffeine gives your body pep when you actually don’t have it, causing you to exhaust your body. You go beyond your limits. Once in a while it’s not so bad, everyone does that sometimes, even without an energy drink. But going over your limits again and again is a real attack on your body. It doesn’t get time to recover, you live on borrowed energy, as it were. You become more tired and lethargic, and the temptation for another can is even greater. You are more likely to experience burnout .

The high sugar content is a real warfare for your teeth. Many people experience cavities and tooth erosion , often resulting in high dental costs , which is a waste of money. Your tongue often feels dead because your taste buds are affected. The cause is both the sugar and the acid in the drink. The high sugar content can also make you fat and even lead to diabetes. A

feeling of agitation and palpitations are also common. Your blood becomes more viscous and that can cause blood clots and subsequently a cerebral infarction or heart attack . The cause of this: caffeine is quickly addictive and, in combination with alcohol, can dehydrate your body even more and adversely affect your night’s sleep. You may experience heartburn. But it could be worse. An ‘overdose’ of energy drinks, especially in children and adults with diabetes and/or a heart defect, can lead to a stroke or heart attack, in the worst case resulting in death. In 2012, this happened to an American girl who drank 1.5 liters of the drink in 1 day, which is equivalent to 6 cans of 25 milliliters. It is true that American energy drinks often contain much more caffeine than in the Netherlands.

What brands of energy drinks are there?

Red Bull is the best-known brand within the now enormous market. Launched in 1987, it had sales of 5 billion cans worldwide in 2012 . Cheap alternatives soon appeared on supermarket shelves: Bullit, Euroshopper energy drink from Albert Heijn, Slammers from Emté and many other brands.

How can you kick the habit of energy drinks?

Many people now also recognize the disadvantages of their often years of use and their dependence on it. They often can no longer go shopping without buying the drinks. Just like an addicted smoker, they don’t feel good if they don’t have a stash at home or a few cans with them. And just like smokers who often smoke a pack or one and a half per day, energy drink users are often heavy users : 8 to 12 cans per day are the rule rather than the exception. Cutting back a bit is not an option, because severe headaches then occur, which are then combated with paracetamol or the painkiller ibuprofen, which has other physical disadvantages.

More and more people want to kick the habit but don’t know how. Severe headaches hinder your daily work or studies and prevent many people from going through the withdrawal process or detox. But if you recognize that you are addicted to it and are motivated to kick the habit, there are certainly options.

Reduce gradually

Reducing your consumption is the least physically demanding. After all, you very gradually reduce your consumption in number of cans. If you drink 8 cans in a day, you go back to, for example, 7. Or you don’t drink your can completely but throw the last part away . A waste of money, but if it ultimately gets you off your addiction, why not. Or pour the stuff into smaller bottles so that you drink less and less. You can also replace the discarded portion by diluting the remaining drink with water. This way you also get used to a slightly weaker variant.

You may be able to kick the habit without nasty headaches and it will not or hardly disrupt your daily life. However, it does require willpower . After all, you are still consuming a dose of energy drink, just less. You really have to be strong and think all the time about what your intention was and how many cans you can drink that day.

Cold turkey

Many addicts, and also drug rehabilitation specialists, choose to suddenly stop using the addictive drug. That is clear: you demonstratively throw away the last remains, now you choose your health. Blow your horn when you stop so that those around you can keep and remind you of your intention. After that it is a matter of persevering. Depending on your habit, you may now suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • (severe) headaches
  • mood swings, being grumpy, the well-known short fuse
  • feeling tired, flu and sick

Rehab: start on Thursday

If you immediately or ultimately opt for a cold turkey withdrawal from energy drinks, it is best to start on a Thursday – assuming you are free from school or work during the weekend. Why? Your heaviest days with a major headache are on the third and fourth day . By stopping on Thursday, these days fall on the weekend, which gives you more space to feel miserable without having to do much. Plan a non-binding appointment during your weekend that will provide some distraction, but which you can also easily cancel if you really feel too ill. Getting used to life without it can take you 1 to 2 weeks, after which your body is quite used to the new situation again.


Research by the University of Amsterdam and Wageningen University has shown that a combination of withdrawal therapies works best. The study mentioned was about quitting smoking, but it is assumed that the same applies to quitting energy drinks. “Slowly reduce the dose and then stop ‘cold turkey’, this combination gives the best results,” according to the study. By first reducing, you, as an inveterate user, end up ‘sitting on the seesaw’, you realize that you have to change and that you can do so by gradually reducing. Your first successes stimulate and put you on the transition from wanting to use to being increasingly motivated to want to quit. Only then quitting cold turkey has a much greater chance of success. A method worth trying.

How do you keep up the withdrawal process?

Deciding to quit and being motivated is one thing. Actually doing it is something else. Feeling miserable with a headache is not nice and you want to get rid of it quickly. It is best to distract yourself by doing something fun, being social, pursuing a hobby, etc. Try to focus as little as possible on how bad it is for you.

As a substitute you can drink tea (preferably green), water, and what many people take: diluted lemonade. Be careful with coffee, because before you know it your energy drink addiction will be replaced by a coffee addiction .

After withdrawal

You’ve done it: you’ve kicked the habit of energy drinks. A life without going to the supermarket for your daily cans, no longer having to constantly keep an eye on your stock, no longer thinking ‘do I have anything with me’ when you leave home. Life smiles at you and your body provides energy itself instead of you having to get it from a can. You can hardly imagine why you couldn’t live without the drink at all. But the pitfall is big . Because you’re doing so well without it, you think you can handle the occasional drink. Because you are no longer dependent. But one leads to more, so be careful before you put the first can back to your mouth.

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