A recent government survey revealed emergency room visits linked to energy drinks have risen. Researchers said the number of people needing medical attention after consuming energy drinks doubled between 2007 and 2011.
That is the same time span these drinks became more popular in convenience stores, bars and college campuses. Most of the 20,000 cases involved teens or young adults.
Northern Michigan University senior John Rohrer had a bad experience with energy drinks four years ago. In less than 18 hours, he consumed two energy drinks and two energy shots. His stomach was empty and he was facing a final college exam.
"I was feeling tired again, so I had another energy shot," recalled Rohrer.
He got into the exam and crashed. He could not even hold his pencil.
"The paper on the table in front of me was moving back and forth; I just felt overall sick," Rohrer said. "I did really bad on the exam."
After the exam, he went into the bathroom and looked in a mirror.
"My pupils were actually pulsing," Rohrer said. "I had so much caffeine and all the other stuff that's in energy drinks."
The emergency room at Marquette General also reported a recent doubling or tripling of energy drink-related visits. Patients typically have anxiety or insomnia issues but don't stay in the hospital for long.
MGH sports medicine specialist, Dr. Bryan Dixon, said energy drinks can cause cardiac issues.
"You can develop an arrhythmia, which is when your heart beats in a funny way, and those can potentially be life threatening, and you can exhaust the heart to the point where you can actually have damage to the heart," said Dr. Dixon.
Dr. Dixon noted energy drinks are particularly a problem when mixed with depressants, like alcohol.
"When used carefully and in appropriate doses, stimulants, such as caffeine, can have some positive effects," he said.
Dixon added it is most important to make sure you are getting enough sleep.
"You can increase your arousal energy with regular exercise," he said. "Also, exposure to bright sunlight can be quite helpful."
Rohrer has his own solutions for staying awake for long periods of time.
"Listen to music," he said. "Plan for it."
Rohrer said he will still have an energy drink occasionally when on long road trips, but he usually sticks to iced tea.
"It takes a little bit in college for you to realize that maybe drinking four energy drinks in one day is not a good idea," he said.
To read a fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control on Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages, click here: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/cab.htm
There are more ingredients than caffeine in energy drinks. Here is a look at what else is in the beverages: http://www.energyfiend.com/energy-drink-ingredients