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Energy Drinks Powering Record Emergency Room Visits

Before you crack open an energy drink, ask yourself, "Do I have good health insurance?"

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Just tasting an energy drink and feeling the saccharine sweet, stick-to-your-tongue flavor slide over your palate and seeing the eerie anti-freeze glow it emits is enough to know that it's probably not great for you. But it's skyrocketing popularity in the last decade says otherwise.

People are guzzling drinks spiked with taurine, sugar and enough caffeine to kill a horse by the bucketful, and the dangerous health effects are starting to show.

According to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the number of energy drink-related emergency room visits increased exponentially between 2005 and 2009. In 2005, there were 1,128 incidents while in 2009, that number jumped to 13,114. The majority of these visits were people between the age of 18 to 39.

The report excludes alcoholic energy drinks like Sparks and the infamous Four Loko, which was reputedly responsible for numerous emergency room visits in early 2011 and was subsequently banned. However, the report does state that approximately 44 percent of non-alcoholic energy drink-related hospital visits happened when people combined alcohol and/or drugs with energy drinks.

Experts have warned against the dangers of combining energy drinks with alcohol for a long time, but drinking them on their own carries its own risks as well. According to SAMHSA, there's a link between energy drink consumption and everything from heart arrhythmias and hypertension to increased sexual risk taking. SAMHSA also found that people in bars who drank alcohol mixed with energy drinks were three times more likely to get drunk and four times more likely to drive drunk (possibly because the stimulants in caffeine can slightly mask the effects of alcohol).

So think twice before you reach for an energy drink to stay alert, and especially if you plan to order a vodka Redbull.

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