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Major Increase Seen in Emergency Room Visits Involving Energy Drinks

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The number of emergency room visits related to energy drinks jumped from 2005 to 2009, according to a new government report. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found more people are combining energy drinks with drugs and alcohol.

According to Reuters, the report found the number of hospital visits linked to energy drinks rose more than tenfold, from 1,128 in 2005, to 13,114 in 2009. SAMHSA said 52 percent of visits made by 18- to 25-year-olds involved combinations of energy drinks with alcohol or other drugs.

The report found 64 percent of hospital visits involving energy drinks were made by males; visits by males were more likely than visits by females to involve a combination of energy drinks and alcohol or illicit drugs. Visits by females were more likely to involve energy drinks combined with pharmaceuticals.

The report notes that energy drinks are flavored beverages that contain high amounts of caffeine. They usually have other additives, such as herbal supplements, vitamins, or guarana, a plant product that contains concentrated caffeine. The high doses of caffeine in the drinks act as a stimulant on the central nervous system and cardiovascular system.

The amount of caffeine in an energy drink can range from 80 to more than 500 milligrams, compared with about 100 milligrams in a five-ounce cup of coffee, or 50 milligrams in a 12-ounce cola, the report states.

“Energy drinks used in excess or in combination with alcohol or drugs can pose a serious health risk,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a news release, which notes that combining energy drinks with substances of abuse increases the risk of serious, even life-threatening injury, as well as the likelihood that a person will engage in risky behaviors such as driving under the influence.

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