A new nationwide report indicates that from 2005 to 2009 (the latest year for which figures are available), there has been a sharp increase in the number of emergency departments visits associated with the use of non-alcohol energy drinks – from 1,128 visits in 2005 to 13,114 visits in 2009. According to the report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the highest level of these energy drink- related emergency department admissions occurred in 2008 (16,055 visits).
Energy drinks are flavored beverages containing high amounts of stimulants such as caffeine. They are often sold in cans and bottles and are readily available in grocery stores, vending machines, bars and other venues. Energy drinks are marketed to appeal to youth and are consumed by up to 50 percent of children, adolescents, and young adults.
Overall, 44 percent of the emergency department visits involving energy drinks were associated with the combined use of an energy drink with other substances such as alcohol, pharmaceuticals or illicit drugs. The rate of combination use of energy drinks and other substances of abuse was greatest among cases involving young adults aged 18 to 25 (52 percent).
The report notes that the vast majority (77 percent) of these visits were made by people aged 18 to 39 and that males made up nearly two thirds (64 percent) of all the visits.
Energy drink-related emergency department visits involving males were twice as likely as those involving females to include the use of alcohol (20 percent versus 10 percent) or illicit drugs (12 percent versus 5 percent). Female visits were more likely than male visits to involve the combined use of energy drinks and pharmaceuticals (35 percent versus 23 percent).
“Energy drinks used in excess or in combination with alcohol or drugs can pose a serious health risk,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “The beverage industry, consumer groups, community coalitions, the healthcare community, teachers, parents and others must get the word out that quick fix energy drinks are not a solution and carry great risks, especially in combination with other substances of abuse. Sleep, exercise and a healthy diet rather than stimulants in a beverage are the keys to quality performance, sustained success, and overall wellness.”
Studies indicate that excessive caffeine intake from energy drinks can cause adverse reactions such as arrhythmias, hypertension, dehydration and other more serious medical conditions. Combining energy drinks with substances of abuse raises the risk of serious, even life-threatening injury, as well as the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors such as driving under the influence.
The report, Emergency Department Visits Involving Energy Drinks, is based on data from SAMHSA’s 2005 – 2009 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports. DAWN is a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related hospital emergency department visits reported throughout the nation.
The full report is available on the web at: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k11/WEB_DAWN_089/WEB_DAWN_089_HTML.pdf
For related publications and information, visit http://www.samhsa.gov/
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has developed a useful pocket guide for health care professionals and others to help with screening and brief intervention for youth who may be have alcohol problems including cases involving energy drinks. The pocket guide is available at: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Practitioner/YouthGuide/YouthGuidePocket.pdf
SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.