Emergency rooms visits spike due to energy drinks

By Sheryl Kay • Published: April 5th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The name sounds innocuous enough, but energy drinks provide the consumer with far more than just a dose of get-up-and-go. Studies have long shown associations between the consumption of these drinks and specific behavior problems … like alcohol abuse in underage teens and marijuana use. Now, new evidence presents an even more ominous picture.

Energy drinks are flavored beverages containing high quantities of caffeine as well as other additives. They’re as common as a can of soda and now available in just as many locations. This causes a concern as most cans contain 100 to 500 milligrams of caffeine. By contrast, a 12-ounce serving of soda contains 50 milligrams.

In order to evaluate the medical consequences linked with consuming energy drinks, researchers chose to analyze data from DAWN, the Drug Abuse Warning Network, a public health surveillance system that tracks drug-related emergency department visits in the United States. Statistics from a four-year period revealed a nearly 100 percent increase in emergency room visits due to energy drink-related mishaps, from about 10,000 visits in 2007 to almost 21,000 visits in 2011. Men were more likely than women to visit the emergency room because of the drinks, but the number of energy drink-related visits doubled for both sexes.

Researchers also found that while there were more patients aged 18 to 39 than in other age groups, visits for those over 40 increased by almost 300 percent during the four-year analysis.

Given past reports by groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the inherent dangers of caffeine consumption, the researchers suggested further warnings may be beneficial regarding energy drinks and how they are marketed.

Most people want a little spring in their step, but the extra bounce may come at too steep a cost.