ER visits tied to energy drinks double since 2007

Posted at: 01/17/2013 10:46 PM
Updated at: 01/17/2013 11:11 PM
By: Lynette Adams

A recent study shows hospitals are treating more young people with heart problem and some blame it on a potentially dangerous mix of alcohol and energy drinks.

A recent government study estimates the number of emergency room visits involving energy drinks has shot up from about 10,000 to more than 20,000 in four years nationwide. The survey looked at cases from 2007 to 2011. In more than half of them, the patients told the doctors they had only had one energy drink, but it was mixed with alcohol or drugs.

The government considers this a "rising public health problem" that can cause insomnia, nervousness, headache, a fast heartbeat and now even heart attacks. Severe enough to require emergency care. And doctors in Rochester are seeing more and more cases than ever.

Mark Chiarenza is a partner at Murphy's Law, an East End bar. At times, he's behind the bar. He says customers regularly order energy drinks mixed with a variety of brands of alcohol like vodka.

Mark Chiarenza, partner at Murphy's Law, said, “I think a lot of people enjoy the flavor and I’m sure they enjoy the little energy boost they get with the caffeine as well.”

Doctors are concerned about the mix of alcohol and energy drinks. A study by the substance abuse and mental health services administration shows this mixture is sending more people than ever to emergency departments. The age group most affected: 18 to 25 year olds.

Dr. Chad Teeters, Chief of Cardiology at Highland Hospital, said, “Most commonly is palpitation, racing heart rates, sweats, chest pain potentially, but mainly palpitations and arrhythmia.”

Dr. Chad Teeters is the Chief of Cardiology at Highland Hospital. Those are generally the complaints of the patients he sees. According to him, that number is growing. He says these drinks take at least 45 minutes to effect a person. He says that may lead people to drink more than they should.

Dr. Teeters said, “There have been reports of young adults dying, heart attacks from this. That's fairly rare. However in an otherwise healthy population, if you look at the exposure and the relative risk in a population that doesn't have heart attacks and cardiac problems very commonly.”

Teeters says there is no health benefit to these drinks, but if you feel like you have to have one, he recommends limiting your intake. If you're having that drink at Murphy's Law, expect Chiarenza and his staff to send you home before you've had too much!

Chiarenza said, “Over serving is a very important thing to us. We make sure nobody gets over served. And if people start looking like they're getting too drunk, we cut them off immediately and find them a safe way home.”

Despite what doctors are seeing, the beverage industry says energy drinks are safe and there is no proof linking their products to adverse affects.