Study: Energy drinks sending more people to hospital

Posted: 7:00 PM EST Jan 16, 2013   Updated: 7:02 PM EST Jan 17, 2013
5-hour energy drink

It's no surprise that many people drink energy drinks to give them that extra boost, but nationwide, the number of people going to the emergency room for heart-related issues has doubled since 2007.

When most people need an extra hop in their step, they turn to caffeinated drinks like coffee, soda and tea. Others turn to energy drinks.

"Sometimes, I drink them to stay up when my friends are over and we're playing video games," said Jared Neiheiser, of Wernersville, Berks Co.

"These energy drinks can have 2-3-5 times the amount of caffeine than a cup of coffee," said Dr. Andrew Waxler, a cardiologist at Berks Cardiologists Ltd. in Wyomissing.

A new federal report by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration said some of those energy drinks may be sending people to the emergency room. In fact, that number has doubled over the last four years, according to the study.

"I know people who do the whole Red Bull and vodka thing and are up for like three days, but I'm not interested," said Somer Canon, of Reading.

"They're unhealthy for you. I'm a nutrition major in school and I know that they are really bad," said Alicia Boty, of Reading.   

"I've had a couple of patients that have had tachycardia, where they had a fast heartbeat, and they have been drinking different energy drinks," said Waxler.

Officials at Reading Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center said they have not seen the same spike in their emergency rooms yet. There is still reason to be concerned, Waxler said.

"Some tachycardias are annoying and others are downright dangerous and perhaps life-threatening," said Waxler.

Some lawmakers want the Food and Drug Administration to take a closer look at energy drinks.

"I do think they should be required to put a warning label on the can," said Waxler.

As with everything, Waxler said moderation is key.

"You have to be practical and reasonable and say drink as little as possible, minimize it as best as you can because the more you drink, the more danger there is," said Waxler.