Emergency Room Visits Involving Energy Drinks On the Rise

Although ingesting large amounts of caffeine can cause insomnia, nervousness, headache, fast heartbeat and seizures that require emergency care, many people still consume energy drinks, a federal report shows.

In fact, the number of people seeking emergency care after using energy drinks doubled between 2007 and 2011, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. More than 20,000 emergency room visits were reported in 2011.

Energy drinks contain high amounts of caffeine and other ingredients such as vitamins, taurine, herbal supplements, creatine, sugars and guarana – a concentrated caffeine plant product, according to the SAMHSA report. The drinks stimulate the central nervous and cardiovascular system. The amount of caffeine in each drink can vary from 80 to 500 milligrams. A typical 5-ounce cup of coffee has about 100 milligrams of caffeine.

“Consumption of energy drinks is a rising public health problem because medical and behavioral consequences can result from excessive caffeine intake,” the report states. “A growing body of scientific evidence documents harmful health effects of energy drinks, particularly for children, adolescents and young adults.”

Young people between the ages of 18 and 25 were often involved in the emergency department visits tracked from 2007 to 2011.

About 42 percent of the visits were because the patient had taken alcohol or other drugs, such as Adderall or Ritalin with the energy drinks.

Two years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a warning that energy drinks can harm children, especially those with diabetes, seizures, cardiac abnormalities, mood and behavior disorders.

“It is important for pediatric health care providers to screen for heavy use both alone and with alcohol, and to educate families and children at-risk for energy drink overdose, which can result in seizures, stroke and even sudden death,” states a news release from the AAP.

Sources: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Drug Abuse Warning Network Report, Jan. 10, 2013, American Academy of Pediatrics

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