Well Being

Dangers Of Energy Drinks Linked To More Emergency Room Visits, Especially For Young People

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When I used to work in film, I would typically have to wake up around 5 or 6 am if it was a daytime shoot. Everyone would sort of drag their feet and feel lethargic for the first few minutes until the coffee and energy drinks arrived, when we all were able to start functioning. In the event of a nighttime shooting schedule, we would come into work at 6 pm feeling not quite as exhausted, but right around 2 in the morning, the yawns would begin, Redbull cans would crack open and everybody would just push through the night motivated at least in part by caffeine. But these little drink-jolt-work-drink-jolt-work rituals — ones that people in numerous fields participate in — are increasingly becoming more unappealing as the apparent dangers of energy drinks are surfacing at an alarming rate.

New federal data from a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is showing that caffeinated beverages was linked to twice as many emergency room visits in 2011 than in 2007. Take a wild guess at how many.

20,783. If I had had to guess, I would've probably said, oh, 800. Sadly, no: problems like headaches, irregular heartbeats, anxiety and even heart attacks have often cited excessive caffeine consumption as a contributing factor.

According to the report, it's becoming a serious health issue, particularly within younger demographics. Patients 18 to 25 were the largest group of those treated, with two-thirds being male.

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

Yeah, this goes way beyond the “caffeine stunts your growth” thing your parents used to say when you were a kid.

While a caffeine drink once in a while isn't going to immediately harm you, putting tons of them into your body on a regular basis is dangerous. And mixing them with pills like Adderall and Ritalin or alcohol? That's super risky behavior which 42 percent of patients treated partook in. Considering all the publicity surrounding the deaths linked to Five-Hour Energy, it's unsettling that so many people are still unaware of — or don't take seriously — the dangers of energy drinks.

While it may be tempting — and sometimes necessary — to consume caffeine in order to stay awake at work or thereafter, it's important to remember that there can be longterm consequences for the opportunity to keep your mind moving. Try other routes of gaining energy, such as exercise, a better sleep schedule or a healthier diet, all of which are linked to numerous benefits and likely won't send you to a hospital anytime soon.

Photo: Matteo Paciotti / Flickr