Energy Drinks

Energy Drink Related Emergency Room Visits Double

According to a report released in January 2013 by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, emergency room visits related to the use of so called energy drinks doubled from 10,068 visits in 2007 to 20,783 visits in 2011.

We were among the first to write about the issue of energy drinks and their effect on health and driving back in 2009 and have published several articles since but the warning bears repeating.

Energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine and sugar and are marketed mostly toward young people as a way to gain energy, stay awake, or lose weight. Energy drinks are unregulated and there are really no limits on how much caffeine can be added to a drink.

The problem comes when young people, with their busy schedules try to use the energy drink as a substitute for sleep. Once the effect of the caffeine wears off, a sleep deprived person will not be able to remain awake.

Another problem is “caffeine intoxication” which comes from overdosing on caffeine. Caffeine overdoses can lead to  anxiety, excitability, restlessness, and an inability to concentrate. Caffeine in large amounts can lead to even greater health issues, including cardiovascular problems, seizures, and hallucinations.

A real danger comes when the energy drinks are mixed with alcohol or other drugs. According to the report, “bar patrons who consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks were 3 times more likely to leave a bar highly intoxicated and were 4 times more likely to intend to drive while intoxicated than those who did not consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks.”

The report went on to say: “Of the 20,783 ED visits involving energy drinks in 2011, more than half involved energy drinks only (58 percent), and the remaining 42 percent involved other drugs (Table 1). Pharmaceuticals were most commonly combined with energy drinks (27 percent), with 9 percent involving energy drinks and central nervous system stimulants (e.g., Adderall®, Ritalin®). About 13 percent of visits involved energy drinks and alcohol and one tenth of visits (10 percent) involved energy drinks and illicit drugs, with 5 percent involving energy drinks and marijuana.”

Some health experts have called for the FDA to regulate energy drinks and to place warnings on the labels. Canadian health officials enacted regulations beginning in January 2013 that limit the amount of caffeine in one drink to 180 mg or roughly the same amount as that contained in an eight ounce cup of coffee.