Jan 17, 2013 |


Jan 17, 2013 - Wrongful Death

The health problems in children attributed to excessive consumption of energy drinks are apparently not limited to kids. Adults, too, are winding up in the emergency department with racing or irregular heart rhythms, anxiety and seizures, and in 2011 more than 5,000 adults over age 40 were hospitalized for those conditions. Older people with chronic diseases and conditions can exacerbate those problems with a caffeine overload, caffeine being the drug that puts the “energy’ in energy drinks. Rarely but occasionally, people die from over-consumption of these beverages.

The number of emergency department visits linked to energy drinks has doubled in the last four years, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, from around 10,000 in 2007 to over 20,000 in 2011, the last year for which data is available. Several high-profile cases in which the user died have prompted some lawmakers to demand investigations into exactly what ingredients manufacturers put into their beverages, and whether those high-octane refreshments should carry warning labels. Energy drinks are increasingly popular with people who don’t like coffee, the more traditional source of caffeine pre-loads.

A rapid heart rate, called tachycardia, can be dangerous if not quickly controlled. When the heart beats too quickly, the chambers that pump blood can’t refill fast enough and that causes a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Another danger is that the electrical impulses fired off by nerves that keep the heart in motion will become disorganized and chaotic, throwing the heart into ventricular fibrillation, in which the heart stops pumping and the victim quickly dies if not treated.

Doctors warn that older people with heart disease or some other cardiac problem, and those with neurological diseases, need to be especially careful with energy drinks. The American Beverage Association, which represents the manufacturers, says the high-octane drinks are safe and many contain no more caffeine than can be found in a cup of coffee. The association says the federal statistics only count people who complained of symptoms after drinking the stuff, but did not cross-check to see what other substances they consumed, so there is no proof energy drinks alone are responsible.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Energy drinks a hazard for adults too,” Jeremy Olsen, Jan. 16, 2013

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