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The New Teen Gateway Drug: Energy Drinks with Secret Ingredients

Pass the glycerol ester of wood rosin, brah! According to a new study, teens who love energy drinks are also the ones who smoke, drink and do drugs. So what are we missing? The good stuff, apparently

High school students who frequently consume energy drinks are significantly more likely to abuse alcohol, cigarettes and other illegal drugs than their tamer peers, according to the latest edition of Journal of Addiction Medicine. Teenage Crunk-chuggers also display more “risk-oriented” and ”sensation-seeking” behavior than the rest of their classmates—so pretty much the cool kids and the burnouts.

They’re the ones who try Salvia for the rest of us and snort Smarties so we don’t have to. And the ones with good dealers and older brothers who can buy 40s. So it’s no surprise that these pimply thrill-seekers could be onto something when it comes to energy drinks. Besides the heart-throttling levels of caffeine and sugar, just look at the virtual medicine chest of exotic, unregulated, plant-based ingredients that pervade today’s popular energy brands. These herbal potions offer a variety of semi-medicinal, completely not-approved-by-the-FDA benefits like stress reduction and increased blood flow to the groin, plus a high to rival whatever’s in the average adolescent bong. In the interest of good health and maybe child safety (?), we present the weirdest shit they’re putting in energy drinks these days. (Parents: Note the popularity of the “mango-peach” flavor profile, which, not unlike smiley faces on acid tabs, your kids seem powerless to resist.)

Crunk

Energy Drink Ingredients Crunk

Secret ingredient: Horny goat weed, ashwagandha

What is that? The Howard Stern of plant extracts, horny goat weed, per its name, is an herb frequently used to treat erectile disfunction. You can buy it in powder form from websites like eBay or Alibaba, or imbibe it in your favorite “tea for men,” ViriliTea. Couple the HGW with ashwaghanda, aka “Indian ginseng,” a root known for its cure-all medicinal properties and strong “horse-like“ aroma, and you’ve got a powerful loin stimulator.

Tweaker

Energy Drink Ingredients Tweaker

Secret ingredient: Yohimbe

What is that? This aphrodisiac extracted from the bark of an evergreen tree in Western Africa is known to “increase blood flow or nerve impulses to the penis or vagina” and arouse sexual excitement, according to WebMD. Future Tweakers beware, however: According to the National Institutes of Health, Yohimbe also comes with a number of risky-sounding side effects commonly associated with actual meth tweakers, including but not limited to “high blood pressure, increased heart rate, headache, anxiety, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, tremors and sleeplessness.”

Nos

Energy Drink Ingredients NOS

Secret ingredient: Glycerol ester of wood rosin

What is that? Pieces of tree ground up with sugar. Seriously. Ester of wood rosin is a substance distilled from pine trees that’s mixed with glycerol, a fat-based chemical usually used as a “moistening agent” or “lubricant.” The combination allows fruit oils (ones that flavor sugary drinks like Nos) to effectively mix with water, so that your energy drinks aren’t all oily on the top. It’s all about oil suspension.

XS

Energy Drink Ingredients XS

Secret ingredient: Schisandra, Astragalus

What is that? Schisandra, also known as Wu Wei Zi, Magnolia vine, Gomishi and Kita-Gomishi, is a viney plant with red berries that grows in Northeast China. According to Chris Kilham, “medicine hunter” on the Dr. Oz show, schisandra berry is a “healing treasure” that improves liver processing and cardiovascular function and stops premature aging. Dr. Oz has lots to say about astragalus, too, which he calls a life-changing “sweet warming herb.”  Life-changing as it may be, even the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine admits, ”the evidence for using astragalus for any health condition is limited.”

FRS

Energy Drink Ingredients FRS

Secret ingredient: Quercetin.

What is that? An antioxidant-cum-vasodialator. Quercetin, a so-called flavanoid that gives plants their colors, is known to literally swell your blood vessels so that they can better soak up the caffeine you put in your body. So blood doping. FRS touts the antioxidant as a “super fuel,” but the University of Maryland Health Center researchers “aren’t sure” about that. Nevertheless, Quercetin is “generally considered safe.” Generally.

Street King

Energy Drink Ingredients Street King

Secret ingredient: Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K)

What is that? Only one of the most dangerous artificial sweeteners in the entire world!  Or as FitDay.com puts it: ”Of all artificial sweeteners, acesulfame-K has undergone the least scientific scrutiny.” The Center for Science in the Public Interest keeps Ace-K, which is 200 times sweeter than sugar, in its “avoid” category, citing safety tests “conducted in the 1970s…of mediocre quality.” Which is probably why it’s commonly known as the “sweet devil.”

Rockstar

About to enter broad distribution via the Pepsi bottling system, ROCKSTAR Energy Drink is formulated with herbal blends in 11 amazing flavors.  (PRNewsFoto/PepsiCo) (Newscom TagID: prnphotos079042)     [Photo via Newscom]
PEPSICO/PR NEWSWIRE

Secret ingredient: Milk Thistle

What is that? A flowering herb, kind of like a daisy or ragweed. The antioxidant inside of it, silymarin, may treat some liver diseases, diminish hangovers and treat diabetes. It’s also an (unproven) anti-inflammatory. Unfortunately The New York Times deems milk thistle’s benefits “mixed at best.”

RedLine

Energy Drink Ingredients Redline

Secret ingredient: Vinpocetine

What is that? A semi-synthetic nutritional supplement. The chemical comes from a dainty periwinkle plant called the Vinca minor—something RedLine doesn’t exactly shout about on its website, which features scarily muscular men with chest tattoos modeling their strength (and boosted energy!). Various health websites maintain that vinpocetine is utterly unreliable as a dietary supplement: “It is not known exactly how vinpocetine works,” says WebMD, “but it might increase blood flow to the brain and offer some protection for brain cells (neurons) against injury.” Scientific tests are for squares, anyway.

Respond Now
  • At the age of 65 I don’t have a need for energy drinks, as I continue to outwork, outlast and out-think everyone around me. My mom, at 90 still calls and motivates me and life is a daily pleasure for her.  I did try a few energy drinks, and felt the caffine type high, but then felt jittery, and noticed my hands shaking a bit from the stimulas of whatever was in it…I figured concentrated caffine. But the high seems to be followed by a rapid crash after a little while.  Well, just get some chocolate covered coffee beans and chew them at 10 PM if you really want to lose a night’s sleep.  Perhaps this entire thing is another fad…like the reports that people who think they are going to get drunk on one or two drinks tend to act drunk and think they are drunk.  Energy…hey guys and gals…just get a life. Existence is pretty exciting if you can see and experience it fully!  

  • I had been drinking energy drinks for some time, I have found them to be “good” at reviving me when I have felt I needed some energy, but to read what the sideaffects are and to have experienced more than I have bargained for in the way of headaches, sleeplessness and the like I am beginning to doubt whether they are as good for me and as good as some might like to believe, I am slowly reducing my intake as I dont wish to have further nasty sideaffects/symptoms as described on the site here, I really liked to feel better after drinking them but I am and will be looking at my dietary needs and sleep pattern to make myself feel better.

  • Like having a energy drink

  • While I don’t agree with the article’s paranoia  about “gateway” energy drinks and I wouldn’t ever consider the FDA as a responsible agency for public health information or anything else for that matter, I feel it’s a useful article nonetheless. At least now I know what to buy. Thanks Emily.

  • Why isn’t RedBull discussed here?

    2 Replies - Reply Now
    • Excellent point.  Why have they skipped one of the MOST MARKETED drinks in this article?  What’s the story with Red Bull?

    • Because RedBull commisioned this article.

  • Show More
  • NO GHB?????????????  Bad energy drinks

  • Why are these listed as secret ingredients? Are they not listed in the ingredients?The problem with these is more-so the caffeiene and combination of stimulant upon stimulant and not necessarily the “secret” ingredients that people have taken for hundreds or thousands of years.

  • Vinca Alkaloids from the periwinkle are also used as chemotherapy agents as well – vincristine & vinblastine.  I’d be inclined to avoid anything that could lower my white cell and platelt counts and also cause peripheral neuropathy.  I’m not sure how related Vinpocetine is, but I would avoid it like the plague!

  • I guess this kind of tells us what many already suspected.

  • I was addicted to energy drinks for over 5 years.  Not to be dramatic but I might have drank myself into a heart attack or worse had I not quit when I did in November 2011. I haven’t touched them since, but at one point my film partner found my addiction and rapidly increasing caffeine tolerance compelling enough to produce as a short film: (NSFW) “WAKE DA’ F**K UP (Or The Quest To Remain Conscious)” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk96E5JLzxgAlbeit a tongue-in-cheek treatment of the subject, it is definitely not a joke and people should drink them in moderation (if at all).  I won’t touch them myself again, and I warn people to do so with caution. 

    1 Reply - Reply Now
  • when we are well known about the ingreidents of the drinks so why governments are not controlling and if they accused must be punished wit RI AND HEAVY PENALTIES.

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • Really? The last thing the world needs is MORE regulation. Here’s some free advice that will last you the rest of your life. If you don’t like something, think it’s dangerous, don’t want to consume/use it… DON’T! It’s that simple. Don’t buy it and don;t use it. – The next part of this bit of free advice is: Don’t worry about what other people choose to consume or use.Ugh, frickin liberalism is destroying this world.

  • All I want to know, and I think I speak for everybody else, is which one of these will give me the hardest boners?

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • Drink a Crunk AND a Tweaker and you’ll be golden!

  • Quercetin is widely distributed by the powerful and often ominous … drum roll … Mother Nature. It’s in apples, among other fruits and vegetables. I’m always more suspicious of synthetic stuff rather than what the earth provides in the most basic foods.

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • This smacks of sensationalism to me.  These herbal products are available freely on the internet and in almost any health store.  Why single them out when alcohol, the most destructive drug ever is glamorized universally?  Henk Jordaan

  • Recommend reading this.

  • Yellow journalism.

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • I agree, pure sensationalism.

      1 Reply - Reply Now
      • Not really, I spent five years addicted to energy drinks until I stopped cold turkey in November 2011. It without a doubt affects judgment and behavior in a detrimental manner. Granted I took it to an extreme, but I behaved in a way that affected had lasting implications on my career and personal life (not irreparable but definitely not for the better). My film partner and I even made a film based on my escalation addiction and rapidly increasing caffeine tolerance: (NSFW) “WAKE DA’ F**K UP (Or The Quest To Remain Conscious) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk96E5JLzxgYeah we poked fun and made light of the situation but I had friends, family members, and colleagues genuinely worried about my health. I had my last Red Bull(s) one afternoon in 2011 and have never touched an energy drink of any variety again–I stick to coffee now.

        1 Reply - Reply Now
      • You were addicted to caffeine pure and simple.  Search the web for Erowid addiction chart.  You’ll see a study that ranks the addictiveness of various drugs.  Caffeine scores a 68, Marijuana a 21, LSD 18.  Caffeine is actually pretty close to Cocaine which scores 72, and Meth which scores a 78, Nicotine scored highest (of course this is nicotine from tobacco which mixes with a natrual MAOI which greatly amplifies the addictive quality of nicotine, nicotine alone is about as addictive as caffeine).  Another study ranks the qualties of these addictions into categories of Withdrawal, Reinforcement, Tolerance, Dependence, and intoxication.  Read up on this study by searching the web for: Erowid is nicotine addictive.

        1 Reply - Reply Now
      • +
      • Trufax.  Erowid is a solid  site, that has probably saved thousands of lifes.  Stay informed, stay safe!

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