Caffeine-packed energy drinks are fuelling a rise in bad behaviour in the classroom as youngsters consume excessive amounts of these "readily available legal highs" that could even encourage use of illegal drugs, campaigners warn today.
Teenagers are using the drinks to enable them to stay up until the early hours of the morning and then drink two or three cans filled with sugar and caffeine on the way to school to make up for their lack of sleep, said Chris Keates, general secretary of British teaching union NASUWT. "This is the first time we have seen a significant number of teachers beginning to raise this as a concern," he added.
The union has joined forces with the drugs and alcohol charity Swanswell after it raised concerns that excessive consumption of energy drinks was linked to misuse of alcohol, cannabis and mephedrone.
The charity became concerned about energy drink consumption after working with growing numbers of young users of drugs and alcohol, who revealed to drugs counsellors that they were trying to cope with symptoms of anxiety and sleeplessness, which may have been fuelled by excessive consumption of the high-sugar products.
Hannah Broughton, a support worker for the charity, said: "It seemed to be a vicious circle for a lot of young people who used caffeine as a stimulant to counteract the down effect of the drugs. A lot of people do not realise how harmful caffeine can be."
The charity argues that no young person should drink more than one can of energy drink a day.
Parents and students have regarded drinks such as Red Bull, Monster and Relentless as just another soft drink and have failed to appreciate the high levels of stimulants such as caffeine and sugar that they can contain, the NASUWT has warned.
Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: "Coffees from popular high-street chains contain the same or more caffeine than most energy drinks." (©Independent News Service)