Emergency room visits linked to energy drink consumption have surged in recent years, according to a report released on Tuesday, as more people combine the popular beverages with alcohol and drugs.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said hospitalizations in the United States tied to energy drinks have jumped tenfold to 13,114 in 2009 from 1,128 visits in 2005. The most recent year for which data is available is 2009.
The agency, a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services, said that 44 percent of the visits involved people who had combined the stimulant-rich drinks with alcohol, pharmaceuticals or illicit drugs.
The vast majority of the visits were made by males between the ages of 18 and 39, the agency said.
The researchers did not say what symptoms drove the people to go to the ER or what underlying medical conditions they may have had.
But they said other studies have indicated that excessive use of the drinks on their own can cause adverse reactions such as arrhythmia, hypertension and dehydration.
“Combining energy drinks with substances of abuse raises the risk of serious, even life-threatening injury, as well as the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors such as driving under the influence,” the researchers said.
Relationship of Alcohol Drinking Pattern to Risk of Hypertension
Epidemiological studies have demonstrated a positive relationship between heavy alcohol use and hypertension, but few studies have directly addressed the role of drinking pattern. This study was designed to investigate the association of current alcohol consumption and aspects of drinking pattern with hypertension risk in a sample of 2609 white men and women from western New York, aged 35 to 80 years, and free from other cardiovascular diseases. Hypertension was defined by systolic blood pressure ≥140 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure ≥90 mm Hg or use of antihypertensive medication. Odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) were computed after adjustment for several covariates. Compared with lifetime abstainers, participants reporting drinking on a daily basis (1.75 [1.13 to 2.72]) or mostly without food (1.64 [1.08 to 2.51]) exhibited significantly higher risk of hypertension. When analyses were restricted to current drinkers, daily drinkers and participants consuming alcohol without food exhibited a significantly higher risk of hypertension compared with those drinking less than weekly (1.65 [1.18 to 2.30]) and those drinking mostly with food (1.49 [1.10 to 2.00]), respectively. After additional adjustment for the amount of alcohol consumed in the past 30 days, the results were follows: 0.90 (0.58 to 1.41) for daily drinkers and 1.41 (1.04 to 1.91) for drinkers without food. For predominant beverage preference, no consistent association with hypertension risk was found across the various types of beverages considered (beer, wine, and liquor). In conclusion, drinking outside meals appears to have a significant effect on hypertension risk independent of the amount of alcohol consumed.
Saverio Stranges, Tiejian Wu, Joan M. Dorn, Jo L. Freudenheim, Paola Muti, Eduardo Farinaro, Marcia Russell, Thomas H. Nochajski, Maurizio Trevisan
The report was immediately criticized by a trade group for makers of the energy drinks, which usually contain stimulants like caffeine and guarana as well as other additives that can compound the beverages’ effects .
The fact that nearly half the hospitalizations involved people who had also consumed alcohol or taken illegal substances or pharmaceuticals made “their consumption of energy drinks potentially irrelevant,” the American Beverage Association said.
Drinking in moderation reduces deaths from cardiovascular conditions such as heart attacks and strokes among men with hypertension or high blood pressure, according to a major research study.
The study was taken from the medical histories of almost 100,000 subjects. Those men with high blood pressure who consumed one to six drinks per week has a 39% lower risk of death from cardiovascular causes than were abstainers. Those who averaged one or two drinks each day were 44% less likely to experience such death.
Medical research has already demonstrated that moderate drinking reduces heart attacks and strokes in the general population by raising levels of high-density lipoprotein or “good cholesterol: and by reducing blood clotting. This study indicates that the same benefits appear to apply to men with hypertension. The investigators believe the results would also apply to women, but further research is needed.
Dr. J. Michael Gaziano and his colleagues did not recommend that abstainers with hypertension begin drinking without consulting their physicians. However, they emphasize that hypertension patients who drink in moderation have no reason to change their custom and eliminate the potential health benefits of drinking alcohol.
Malinski, M.K., Sesso, H.D., Lopez-Jimenez, F., Buring, J.E., and Gaziano, M. Alcohol consumption and cardiovascular disease mortality in hypertensive men. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2004, 164(6), 623.)
The group also said that most mainstream energy drinks contain just half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffee.
By James B. Kelleher