"The issue is not the doubling of emergency department visits. That is the symptom," O'Brien said. "The 'disease' is the failure of the federal government to regulate energy drinks as beverages."
Adding to the problem is the fact that most consumers, especially the young adults who are targeted by the makers of these beverages, are not aware of the serious health risks involved, she noted.
Meanwhile, the American Beverage Association took issue with the report, which was released late last week.
"This report does not share information about the overall health of those who may have consumed energy drinks, or what symptoms brought them to the ER in the first place," the association said in a statement on its website. "In fact, it shows that 42 percent of the reported ER visits were by someone who had admitted to consuming alcohol or taking illegal substances or pharmaceuticals. However, there is no way to assess whether any of the remaining individuals chose not to report this fact, and the consumption of those substances along with energy drinks means the energy drinks may be irrelevant."
According to the report, pills were the most common drugs combined with energy drinks (27 percent), with 9 percent of those involving stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin. About 10 percent of the visits included the use of illicit drugs, with 5 percent involving marijuana.
Males accounted for about two-thirds or more of energy drink-related ER visits during the four years. Visits for both males and females doubled between 2007 and 2011, from about 7,000 to nearly 15,000 visits for males and from nearly 3,000 to nearly 6,000 visits for females.
People aged 18 to 25 accounted for most of the energy drink-related ED visits, followed by people aged 26 to 39. However, the report found that visits by people aged 40 and older increased 279 percent over those four years, from nearly 1,400 to about 5,200.
Concerns about energy drinks
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