LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) -You see them at bars, in college libraries and on the shelves of your local grocery stores.
Energy drinks are an easy way to get a quick caffeine boost.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, energy drinks are defined as "flavored beverages containing high amounts of caffeine and typically other additives," and SAMHSA's new study shows over consumption of these drinks are putting more people in the emergency room.
The study shows emergency room visits involving energy drinks doubled from 10,068 people in 2007 to 20,783 people in 2011.
A high dose of caffeine energizes the central nervous system and cardiovascular system, according to SAMHSA.
"Insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, those are the most common effects that we see," said Dr. Andy Weiss, an emergency physician at Gundersen Lutheran. "People who have a susceptibility to heart arrhythmias, it can throw them into a heart arrhythmia."
According to Mayo Clinic, an eight ounce cup of generic brewed coffee has between 95 to 200 milligrams of caffeine; eight ounces of Red Bull only has about 80 milligrams.
"One energy drink, in general, is probably not going to send someone to the emergency room but if chronically, every day, we're consuming large numbers of energy drinks, soda, coffee, which all contain caffeine, that could be lethal," said Marisa Pruitt, a registered dietitian at Gundersen Lutheran.
Pruitt said moderation is the problem.
"Two-hundred milligrams (of caffeine) is generally considered safe," Pruitt said. "So, what that means is about one or two cups of coffee, maybe one to two energy drinks, or maybe three to four cans of caffeinated soda."
Weiss couldn't give an exact number of energy drink related cases he sees, but on average he said at least one patient a week.
"They key with energy drinks is just like with any other medication, with any other substance you put in your body, is moderation," Weiss said.
SAMHSA's study didn't measure emergency room visits involving energy drinks prior to 2007. Statistically, the numbers before that time were too low.
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