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Energy drinks could land your children in the emergency room

The number of emergency room visits involving energy drinks has doubled in recent years according to a new federal report.


Go easy on the energy drinks, a federal health agency says. They might land you in the emergency room.

The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says in a January drug abuse awareness newsletter that more than 20,000 patients including many teenagers visited their local ER in 2011 with “energy drink related” problems. Forty-two percent of those visits involved energy drinks and drug abuse.

“These beverages provide high doses of caffeine that stimulate the central nervous system and cardiovascular system,” the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) newsletter says, adding that a regular can of energy drink can contain five times the amount of caffeine in a regular cup of coffee.

“Research has established that, among college students, there are associations between energy drink consumption and problematic behaviors such as marijuana use, sexual risk taking, fighting, smoking, drinking, and prescription drug misuse.”

Other points in the DAWN study include:

  • Patients aged 18 to 25 were most commonly involved in energy drink-related ER visits, followed by patients aged 26 to 39.
  • Pharmaceuticals were most commonly combined with energy drinks (27 percent), with nine percent involving energy drinks and central
    nervous system stimulants (e.g., Adderall, Ritalin)
  • High levels of caffeine found in energy drinks can mask the symptoms associated with being intoxicated Individuals, especially young drinkers, may incorrectly believe that consumption of caffeine can “undo” the effects of alcohol intake and make it safe to drive after drinking.

MBJ has already reported on the booming energy drink market among college students in the latest edition of NEXT Magazine. It’s worth noting that several leading energy drink manufacturers were contacted for the NEXT article but chose not to participate. One publicist asked us over the phone, “Is this a good story or a bad story?”

>>UPDATE Maureen Bach with the American Beverage Association has sent us the ABA’s response to the DAWN study.

“This report does not share information about the overall health of those who may have consumed energy drinks, or what symptoms brought them to the ER in the first place,” the statement reads. “DAWN is intended to monitor drug-related emergency department visits, not the alleged effects of consuming non-alcoholic beverages.”

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