What About Energy Drinks?
Locally, 7.2% of youth in grades 7-12 responding to the 2010 Ulster County Youth Development Survey reported use of caffeine and/or diet pills. However, data regarding use of coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks was not collected.
A new report from the Drug Abuse Warning Network addresses emergency department visits involving energy drinks. Trend data shows a sharp increase in the number of emergency department visits involving energy drinks between 2005 (1,128) and 2008 (16,053) and 2009 (13,114), representing about a tenfold increase.
These drinks are readily available and provide high doses of caffeine, varying from about 80 to more than 500 milligrams of caffeine, compared with about 100 mg in a cup of coffee or 50 mg in a 12 ounce soda. Energy drinks typically contain other additives such as vitamins, taurine, guarana, creatine, sugar, and herbal supplements.
Energy drinks are marketed to appeal to youth and are consumed by 30 to 50 percent of children, adolescents and young adults.The most popular brands of energy drinks are Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar, Full Throttle, and Amp. Sales increased 240% from 2004 to 2009.
Some energy drinks also contain alcohol; however, the DAWN report focuses only on the dangerous effects of energy drinks that do not contain alcohol. About half (52%) of the emergency department visits made by patients aged 18 to 25 involved combination of energy drinks with alcohol or other drugs. High levels of caffeine can mask the symptoms associated with being intoxicated, and younger drinkers may incorrectly believe that consumption of caffeine can “undo” the effects of alcohol. Males made up 64% of emergency department visits involving energy drinks, and males were more likely to combine energy drinks with alcohol, while more visits for females involved mixing energy drinks and pharmaceuticals.
Visits involving energy drinks alone involved adverse reactions, suggesting that energy drink consumption by itself can result in negative health events significant enough to require emergency care.
DAWN states that research suggests that additives may compound the stimulant effects of caffeine. Excessive caffeine intake can cause dehydration, arrhythmias, hypertension, sleeplessness and nervousness as caffeine acts as a stimulant upon the central nervous system and cardiovascular system. Use over time can cause dependence and withdrawal symptoms. Additional risks and complications can occur for those with cardiac conditions, eating disorders, diabetes and anxiety disorders.
Associations have also been established between energy drink consumption and marijuana use, sexual risk taking, fighting, smoking, drinking, and prescription drug misuse.
The DAWN report concludes by recommending public awareness campaigns focusing on the health effects of consumption of energy drinks alone and in combination with alcohol and/or other substances, and education to dispel the myth that energy drinks can offset or eliminate the effects of alcohol intoxication.
DAWN is a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related emergency department visits in the United States.
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