Link between Emergency Room Visits and Energy Drinks

Students of healthcare hoping to one day work in emergency rooms may be surprised by the kinds of patients they see in the ER. Everyone expects to see people in the hospital who have engaged in substance abuse or binge drinking, or who have diabetes, or who are overweight and are at risk for a heart attack. But there is one type of patient they won't expect, but will see often: teenagers and college students who have had one too many energy drinks. In fact, the number of emergency room trips involving energy drinks doubled from 2007 to 2011.

About 60% of the patients seeking help were only experiencing adverse reactions related to energy drink consumption, while 27% of patients had also consumed prescription drugs, 13% had also consumed alcohol, and 10% had also consumed illegal drugs. And the really scary part: 9% had consumed prescription stimulants like Ritalin on top of the already stimulating energy drinks. Teenagers and young adults are the most likely to end up in the ER because of energy drink consumption.

Studies have reported that 10% of these cases that reach the emergency room are serious enough to warrant hospitalization. About 12% of people who had only consumed energy drinks required hospitalization, while only 8% of those who had drank the beverages in combination with drugs or alcohol needed in-patient care. Although energy drink companies have reported that the drinks only contain as much caffeine as a strongly brewed cup of coffee, they can actually contain up to 500 mg of caffeine – five times the amount in a typical cup of coffee, and ten times the amount in many soft drinks.

Ingesting large amounts of caffeine can lead to insomnia, racing heart rate, increased blood pressure, muscle tremors, and seizures. And though the sale of energy drinks has soared, their consumption has been linked to marijuana use, sexual risk-taking, prescription drug misuse, drinking, smoking, and fighting. According to the Food and Drug Administration, as of 2012 there had been 13 reported deaths that had been linked to energy drinks – many involving 5-hour energy, and five involving Monster.

Energy drink companies have spoken out against these statistics, claiming that the studies haven't examined whether other caffeinated products, like coffee, also send people to the emergency room. They also claim that there's no way of confirming that it's the energy drinks these patients consumed that sent them to the ER. What's unnerving about these statistics, however, is that energy drinks aren't regulated the same way other beverages are. That's because energy drinks are usually categorized as dietary supplements or food products, which don't have caffeine limits. The FDA also doesn't regulate many energy drink ingredients, including taurine and ginseng.

Whether students and professionals planning to enter the medical profession will do so as technicians, nurses, doctors, or healthcare administrators, it's likely that they will at some point come face to face with one of these statistics. There is, however, a possibility that in the future the FDA will impose new restrictions on energy drink companies to combat these rising numbers.

Sources:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2014/03/19/more-than-10-percent-of-emergency-room-visits-involving-energy-drinks-result-in-hospitalization/

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/01/22/170002123/energy-drinks-blamed-for-boom-in-emergency-room-visits

About the Author:

Iris Stone has worked as a freelance writer since 2011. Her writing has included content on medicine, healthcare, and education, although her interests are wide and varied. Prior to breaking into the freelance biz, Iris worked in sales for a health company and prior to that as an assistant in a chiropractic office. She is currently attending George Mason University and is majoring in Political Science. Check out her Google+ profile.

How Emergency Rooms Nationwide are Flunking out

The American College of Emergency Physicians recently released a report giving emergency rooms in hospitals across the country a letter grade just like students receive in school. So what was the verdict? Unfortunately, a lousy D+. The president of ACEP explained that their findings indicate that the nation's policies aren't supporting patients in an emergency setting. Rather than criticizing specific hospitals or doctors, the report ranks states according to 136 different measures, such as access to emergency care, average premium levels, and average malpractice award payments. These measures were then separated into five overall categories – access, liability, quality and patient safety environment, public health, and disaster preparedness. The 2014 grade is particularly depressing because it indicates the country's healthcare has actually worsened since 2009, when the average grade was still a shameful C-.

When it comes to grading individual states, some regions clearly outshine others. Leading the pack is the District of Columbia with a B-, while Massachusetts, Maine, and Nebraska follow closely behind with the same grade. Colorado, with a C+, fills the 5th place spot. Moving all the way down to the list to 51st place is Wyoming, with a solid F. Also scraping the bottom of the barrel are Arkansas (with a D-), and then New Mexico, Montana, and Kentucky – all with D's. The category in which the country is most lacking is access to emergency care, where a whopping 21 states received F's. D.C., Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Maine are the only ones that earned A's and B's in this category. Medical liability received relatively high grades in Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, and Texas, but still – 10 states were awarded F's. Maryland, Pennsylvania, Utah, and North Carolina have the best policies that support patient safety, but again – 10 states received F's in this category. Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, Oregon, Minnesota, Washington and Utah made the grade in public health and injury prevention, but a woeful 28 states flunked out or got D's in this category. Even worse is disaster preparedness, where nearly half of the states received a D or worse, and only D.C. and North Dakota can proudly display their A's.

The report provides patients, physicians, and healthcare administrators with a lot of telling information. For example, a patient has less chance of surviving a car crash if they arrive at a hospital that is unprepared to receive him or her. Other factors, such as medical liability, affect how likely someone in an emergency room is to have access to a specialist. Doctors are less likely to want to show up for a patient they don't know if liability is high. Furthermore, liability insurance premium levels can predict physician migratory patterns. In other words, doctors have begun leaving areas where premiums are high in favor of states where their payments will be lower.

That being said, there are some critics of the report. Since the authors of the report based their grades on indicators such as the percentage of adults with Medicaid, bicycle fatalities, and the percentage of obese children, it can be argued that the document doesn't really accurately reflect the state of E.R. departments in any given state. Furthermore, it doesn't provide much information on what ultimately is all that matters at the end of the day – patient outcomes. Hopefully, this report is being used for what it no doubt was intended – to affect state and federal policies. The ACEP president noted that some states responded to the 2009 report by altering policies (although it
apparently didn't do much good if the country's score was downgraded), so hopefully legislators and hospital administrators will respond to the 2014 update with policies that will garner the U.S. higher marks in 2019. Because really, is a C too much to ask?

Sources:

http://www.medpagetoday.com/EmergencyMedicine/EmergencyMedicine/43840

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/16/health/emergency-medical-report-card/index.html?hpt=he_c2

About the Author:
Iris Stone is a freelance writer, editor, and business owner who has written on a range of topics. She has experience covering content on medicine, healthcare, and career training, as well as education. Iris is also interested in science and mathematics and is currently studying to be a physicist. Check out her Google+ Profile.

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