A January 25, 2011, commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has claimed that “regular (nonalcoholic) energy drinks might pose just as great a threat to individual and public health and safety” as the alcoholic versions recently barred by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to authors Amelia Arria and Mary Claire O’Brien, “health professionals should inform their patients of the risks associated with the use of highly caffeinated energy drinks; the public should educate themselves about the risks of energy drink use, in particular the danger associated with mixing energy drinks and alcohol; and the alcohol and energy drink industries should voluntarily and actively caution consumers against mixing energy drinks with alcohol, both on their product labels and in their advertising materials.”

Calling for increased regulation, the article focuses on research suggesting that the caffeine in energy drinks could cause “adverse health events in susceptible individuals,” including adolescents and pregnant women. It also alleges that mixing energy drinks with alcohol “has been linked consistently to drinking high volumes of alcohol per drinking session and subsequent serious alcohol related consequences.” Moreover, the authors note, “regardless of whether energy drinks are mixed with alcohol,” their use “might confer a risk for alcohol dependence and perhaps nonmedical prescription drug use.”

“The National Institutes of Health must recognize the lack of systematic research on the health and safety effects of energy drink consumption, especially among adolescents,” concludes the commentary, which recommends setting an upper limit on the amount of caffeine permitted in energy drinks. “To promote informed consumer choices, regulatory agencies should require specific labeling regarding caffeine content, with warnings about the risks associated with caffeine consumption in adolescents and in pregnant women as well as with explicit information about the potential risks associated with mixing energy drinks with alcohol.”