Back in October, Grub presented you with a sinister history of energy-drink-related deaths and illnesses. Only one month later, 5-Hour Energy was cited in reports of thirteen deaths. It's unfortunate that we're not surprised to now learn that ER visits tied to energy drinks have doubled since 2007. Most of the cases involve teens and young adults, who are often mixing energy drinks with alcohol, and sometimes stimulant drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin. The toxic combinations can cause insomnia, seizures, dehydration, kidney failure, heart attacks ― the list goes on and on. It's a problem that's far deadlier and more concentrated than your usual bout of binge-drinking or dangerous-eating, and legislative change is needed.
It's been a slow battle to get the FDA and the U.S. Health and Human Services to work together, update the substance abuse figures, and properly acknowledge this as a growing health issue. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's 2011 survey used a representative sample of 5 percent of emergency visits to conclude that about 20,000 cases were tied to energy drinks nationwide. This estimation doesn't come even close to the 136 million emergency room visits tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The FDA claims it's going to conduct a broad review of the safety issues posed by energy drinks this coming spring. By then, it may be too late for countless teens who think that mixing these beverages is a normal and harmless pregame activity. Energy drinks comprise only 3.3 percent of sales of the carbonated soft drinks market. But as sales of pop have decreased in recent years, the Red Bulls and the Rockstars have become even more popular, with sales rising by almost 17 percent. Maybe the Anti-Soda Crusaders (Bittman and Bloomberg) can use the same sense of urgency to get people to see energy drinks as an equally important part of America's public health crisis.
A Brief (Hypercaffeinated) History of Energy-Drink-Related Deaths and Illness
5-Hour Energy Drinks Cited in Reports of Thirteen Deaths
Man Hallucinates After Eating Worlds Spiciest Curry
Here Is Coca-Colas First Anti-Obesity Ad, Coming Together [Update: Bittman Weighs In]