D E V E L O P M E N T A L L Y  S P E A K I N G


ENERGY DRINKS! DO THEY MESS WITH THE MEDS AND MINDS? (A personal family experience--a mother’s observation)

“The TV is too loud!" "Turn it down!” “Turn it down some more!” “Turn it WAY down!”

Ok. Now I can barely hear the TV, and am straining my ears to the point of getting a headache. But if I don’t turn it down, then I will hear the crying; loud cursing-like-a-sailor; banging on walls; stomping across the floor; banging doors; and maybe stomping down the stairs; then the glaring, unrecognizably large spirited eyes—all to demonstrate extreme anxiety about the noise of the TV.

I thought I knew the answer. At least I felt that I could guess at a possible answer. When she was 3-1/2, she was tested and the doctor said she would be very abstract and would hear many things at one time—people talking nearby or from a distance, noise from automobiles, dogs barking, etc. She had already been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Syndrome, but he said she also suffered a loss of oxygen just before, during, or just after birth. She would have a hard time distinguishing different sounds. My guess is that this phenomena has suddenly heightened drastically, and must be very annoying and confusing to her, causing this anxiety.

From birth through age 28, we only dealt with her Autism and had brought her to the point of being able to make eye contact, hold down a part-time secretarial job, initiate conversation and include other people into her world. Then, around age 28, we started noticing some inappropriate behavior (sometimes, aggressive), and eventually, some auditory-hallucinations (hearing people who are not there). If auditory-hallucination is not a word, forgive me, for it’s the only way I can describe what we experienced. This was the first time the need for medication came into play.

For the last several years, the meds worked to quieten the voices, making this condition manageable. More recently, however, the “edge” as my daughter calls it, suddenly and unexpectedly, took over. The voices she heard were identifiable as White male, White female, Black male, and Black female. And the crying, anger, and anxiety commanded almost every moment at home and at work. She also began to throw-up too frequently, became angry enough to hit at our dog with her shoe, and to allude to other improprieties too extreme to mention here. Insomnia and day-time drowsiness were also a problem. I was especially concerned when my daughter threatened to harm herself. These behavior changes made it impossible to leave her at home alone, which we had been able to do periodically for short periods of time for a number of years. Moreover, personal skills became grossly lacking, and she could not continue to go to work.

What answers do I guess at now? What is this thing? I was so sure of everything. She was doing so well and was so bright in terms of what she had learned over the years. What was I missing?

I began to notice that, lately, when we went to the grocery store, or drug store, or convenience store—even to soft drink machines, she always wanted to buy all kinds of flavored (what I thought were) “nutrition” drinks, along with “spring water.” Two of these, she would buy by the case. I was guilty of not paying attention to this collection—for it was just that, a collection. I had been so carried away with taking care of other always-urgent-family-matters that I didn’t notice the cartons and grocery bags everywhere in her bedroom. They were under her dresser, under her computer stand, in her closet, out in the middle of the floor, on her shelves, etc.

She giggled, when I became concerned about them, and when I decided that she and I would straighten them up. We opened all the bags and found places to neatly put these drinks. I noticed that those I thought were plain spring water, were not, but were laden with vitamins and other chemicals. I noticed, also, that those I thought were just nutritious supplements, were actually ENERGY drinks, loaded with what I think are megavitamins and other chemicals. There were tea bags, cans and bottles of iced tea with and without sugar and caffeine, some that contained Gensing, and some that contained Senna, a laxative. Obviously these beverages are for people who are highly athletic.

I began to wonder if these were compatible with my daughter's medications, and I was assured by her doctors that they were compatible. When I read the labels further, and checked out these substances over the Internet, as well as used common sense, I realized that these drinks were not for my daughter, who was fairly inactive, physically. We have not been getting out to jog, walk, or to get a lot of exercise. One drink even had a grenade-shaped bottle, perhaps to show the explosive energy of the drink, including a round pull-tab on the bottle-top shaped like a grenade pin. This was abominable!

Immediately, we gathered these expensive, not-so-pleasant-tasting drinks and donated them to a college sports program. Unbelievably, we started to see a change in her behavior within two days. No more bug-eyed anxiety; no more “upcite,” “happycite,” or other terms coined by my daughter to describe how she felt. I believe that she was developing an addiction to the energy drinks, because periodically, she would sneak one into our basket. More and more, though, she makes sure I catch her. We laugh and she puts it back.

At this point in time we are trying to find ways to quell the voices. She continues to take her medications, and is trying to fill her time with other activities. For now, we don’t have to turn the TV down to a whisper. All of these changes came about when the ENERGY drinks were eliminated from her diet.

No more ENERGY drinks in this household! From this parent to others, watch what your children drink. I have seen on recent news programs that there has been concern about teenagers drinking these beverages. I think we all have good reason to be concerned, and a responsibility to get them out of our children’s hands (unless prescribed by a doctor). Without some insight on our family’s part, we would have been in a lot of trouble. I worry that many parents—especially special parents—may be doing the same thing I believe I was doing, namely: being so pleased that my Autistic daughter found something she seemed to like and cared about, and ignorantly not paying attention to what that was.

It is unfortunate that energy drinks are allowed so openly on the grocery store shelves. And I view it as irresponsible on the parts of the vendors and the companies which make the drinks, to not make it blatantly clear about the potential danger for people who unknowingly believe these are just pleasant, sweet, colorful nutritional drinks. The money the retailers must be making from minors, and possibly other persons with disabilities—like my daughter—is not worth the misery and possible harm that can be caused.

A concerned mother


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