Energy drinks fueled Thomas Sandstorm’s nightlife. Mixed with alcohol, it helped the twenty-something keep the party going.
“I used to drink some energy in vodka just like everybody else usually does with their energy drink. And that would get me going for a while, but just like everything else that would make me crash even harder at the end. And everything would just go down hill from there,” says Sandstorm.
Health experts are seeing the downside.
It says it has 120 milligrams of caffeine per container.
Between 2007 and 2011, the number of energy drink-related ER visits doubled, from about 10,000 to nearly 21,000. Almost half of the emergencies involved mixing the drinks with drugs or alcohol.
“That’s a bigger worry of combining alcohol with any of the energy drinks because the caffeine has the opposite effect of alcohol. So instead of decreasing your brain system, it actually speeds it up. So you don’t feel the effects of the alcohol. And it can be very dangerous,” says Dr. Julia Fashner, family practitioner with Lee Memorial Health System.
The high levels of caffeine and proprietary stimulants in energy drinks can increase in heart rate and drive up blood pressure. That can spark bouts of insomnia, nervousness, headaches, fast heartbeats - even seizures.
“They are attributing deaths due to these beverages. The other thing with these beverages and toxicities is that it doesn’t take much for them to have negative side effects which will lead to a trip to the emergency room,” says Dr. Fashner.
When it happened to a friend, Sandstorm decided to give the energy drinks a rest.
“That kind of hits close to home because you don’t realize how these things are affecting everybody around you,” says Sandstorm.
While most ER visits involved teens and young adults, experts saw a spike in people over 40 who may have underlying heart problems, which could boost the negative side effects.