A new government survey suggests the number of people seeking emergency treatment after consuming energy drinks has doubled nationwide in the last four years—the same period in which energy drinks’ popularity has surged.
From 2007 to 2011, the annual number of ER visits involving drinks such as Monster, Red Bull and Rockstar rose from 10,000 to more than 20,000, according to a survey of US hospitals released late last week by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The survey was prompted by a call from the FDA, which asked the agency to update figures about the number of emergency room visits tied to energy drinks.
In the survey, most of the ER visits involved teens or young adults. More than half of the patients said they had consumed just the energy drink. In 2011, approximately 42 percent of people said they combined energy drink with alcohol or drugs, such as Ritalin.
Although the survey calls the consumption of energy drinks a “rising public health problem” that can cause insomnia, headache, seizures or a fast heartbeat.
Many patients are not aware of the strength of energy drinks. According to Howard Mell, an emergency doctor in suburban Cleveland and a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians, the caffeine in three energy drinks is equivalent of 15 cups of coffee.
The findings coincide with increased concerns over the effects of energy drinks. Last fall, 18 deaths possibly linked to energy drinks were reported. Despite the uptick in energy drink-related incidents, the beverage industry says the drinks are safe and there is no proof that they cause adverse reactions.
The FDA is evaluating the findings and seeking more details. In the spring the agency will conduct a broad review of the safety of energy drinks and their ingredients.