Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Energy Crash

You can always count on teenagers to come up with a new way to drink alcohol. Lately, the fad is mixing it with energy drinks.

A recent study - conducted on about 37,000 students from grade 7 through high school - discovered that 20% had drunk alcohol mixed with energy drinks like Red Bull or Monster. The study was conducted in Canada, but the statistics are on par with findings in the U.S. and Europe.

The habit seemed to be highest among those students who used marijuana (surprise surprise), skipped school or were involved in sports. Students who felt "connected" to school were less likely to indulge in this high-caffeine kick.

Doctors say mixing booze with energy drinks is a serious health concern for young people because energy drinks tend to "mask" the effects of alcohol. Meaning it's easier to get drunk, drive drunk, or make other irresponsible decisions when you're under the influence.

Commercial energy drinks have become more and more popular in the last five years and, subsequently, doctors have seen a huge increase in the number of emergency room visits by people who have "overdosed" on them. In fact, since 2007, people seeking help in emergency wards for symptoms (allegedly) brought on by energy drinks has doubled, reaching almost 20,000 per year. Of these, just under half of the patients had mixed the drinks with alcohol.

Dr. Howard Mell, an emergency room physician in Cleveland who's also a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians, says most people don't realize how powerful these drinks can be.  A single can contains as much caffeine as three cups of coffee and consuming too many in too short a period of time can cause anxiety, headache, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, seizures or worse . In fact, 18 deaths have been linked to energy drinks - though the manufacturers deny responsibility and say underlying health issues are more than likely the cause.

I definitely sing the praises of energy drinks when I'm cleansing (they've helped me get through more than a couple sober social events!). Even then, I only have two or three in a whole month. So it's boggling to think that people can sometimes drink three in an hour - like one of the patients Dr. Mell recently saw in the E.R. The man recovered, thankfully, but Dr. Mell is convinced that if he had an underlying heart problem, the situation could've been much worse.

Obviously, we're all just learning about the overall effects of these high-octane drinks on our health - and that's a good thing. Because Red Bull might give you wings ... but it should also give you pause.

Especially if you've already sloshed back a couple cans!

CBC News  article on alcohol and energy drinks among students.
And the original article on the rise in emergency room visits connected to energy drinks.