Rochester, N.Y.— With their flashy colors and promises of instant energy, energy drinks are hard to ignore. They are simply everywhere-- from convenience stores to college campuses to bars.
“They are all over the place,” said Dr. Timothy Wiegand, the director of toxicology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “You can't walk into a gas station or a
convenience store without seeing it with the soda and other beverages. There are several cases of these energy drinks.”
In 2011, energy drink sales rose by almost 17 percent, according to the Beverage Digest.
As the popularity of energy drinks grow, so do the number of energy drink-related emergency room visits. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the cases of energy drink-related ER visits doubled since 2007.
From 2007 to 2011, the cases shot up from 10,000 to 20,000.
According to this report, about 42 percent of these 2011 cases also involved mixing energy drinks with alcohol and other drugs.
During the same four-year period, people from ages 18 to 25 were the most common age group seeking emergency treatment after drinking energy drinks.
Dr. Wiegand said that side effects from caffeine overconsumption include sweating, shaking, headaches, nausea, fast heartbeats and even seizures.
“There have been cases when people come into the emergency department and they really grossly underestimate how much caffeine they've been drinking,” Dr. Wiegand explained. “Energy drinks are perceived as really safe, but when patients come into the emergency department they’ve been overdoing it.”
Dr. Wiegand said many energy drink products are marketed towards teens and young adults. He said there needs to better education about the dangers of caffeine overconsumption.
“I think there needs to be education for certain demographics and limiting where it could be used. I don't think it should be sold in schools.”
He also said it should be clearer on the label how much caffeine is in one drink. He also believes that the amount caffeine should be limited in one drink.
However, Dr. Wiegand reiterated that when taken in moderation, energy drinks are safe. In fact, he said one small can of Red Bull has less caffeine than a Starbucks coffee.