The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) in the UK is warning about the levels of caffeine in energy drinks and its effect on the behaviour of children and young people.

To raise awareness of the potential impact of these drinks, NASUWT is working with a national drug and alcohol recovery charity Swanswell.

The organisations are urging the government to commission independent research into energy drink use and long-term effects in children.

NASUWT’s 2016 Annual Big Question Survey showed that 13% of respondents referred to the use of caffeine and energy drinks, which can contribute to poor pupil behaviour in schools.

“These drinks are popular among young people who often think they are just another soft drink.”

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “For the last two years in our survey, teachers have registered concerns about the contribution of high energy drinks to poor pupil behaviour as a result of consuming excessive quantities.

“These drinks are popular among young people who often think they are just another soft drink. Young people and parents are often not aware of the very high levels of stimulants that these drinks contain.

“They are readily available legal highs sold in vending machines, supermarkets, and corner shops. Their packaging and marketing makes them attractive.”

In some cases, consumption of energy drinks is said to be linked to the use of other substances such as cannabis.

Swanswell CEO Debbie Bannigan said: “Energy drinks can affect performance at school and lead to risky behaviour. We’ve even seen examples in our service of children taking cannabis to offset up to 800mg of caffeine a day.”

A recent European study found that nearly one in five children who have tried energy drinks think they are the same as cola. However, a 500ml bottle of cola has almost 40mg of caffeine, while an energy drink has around 160mg.

Bannigan added: “We’ve joined up with the NASUWT to provide parents, teachers, and students with information about the hidden harm of energy drinks.”