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January 17, 2013

ER visits tied to energy drinks double since 2007

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The young man stumbled into the emergency room late one night after a house party, saying his heart wouldn’t stop pounding and he could barely breathe after downing liquor mixed with energy drinks.

Emergency physician Steve Sun soon found the patient was so dehydrated he was going into kidney failure — one of many troubling cases Sun says he has treated in recent years tied to energy drink consumption.

Sun’s changing caseload appears in line with a new government survey that suggests the number of people seeking emergency treatment after consuming energy drinks has doubled nationwide during the past four years, the same period in which the supercharged drink industry has surged in popularity in convenience stores, bars and on college campuses.

“Five years ago, perhaps I would see one or two cases every three months or so. Now we’re consistently seeing about two cases per month,” said Sun, assistant medical director of the emergency department at St. Mary’s Medical Center, on the edge of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

No cases have been handled recently at the Addison Gilbert Hospital emergency room in Gloucester, according to a hospital spokesman, but she said that doesn’t mean a person didn’t see a private practitioner.

From 2007 to 2011, the government estimates the number of emergency room visits involving the neon-labeled beverages shot up from about 10,000 to more than 20,000. Most of the cases involved teens or young adults, according to the survey of the nation’s hospitals released late last week by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

More than half of the patients considered in the survey told doctors they had consumed only energy drinks. In 2011, about 42 percent of the cases involved energy drinks in combination with alcohol or drugs, such as the stimulants Adderall or Ritalin.

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