Rise in caffeine toxicity blamed on energy drinks

The retrospective observational study of NSW Poisons Information Centre data examined phone calls regarding energy drink exposures over the seven years to 2010.

Some 297 exposures to energy drinks were reported, increasing annually from 12 in 2004 to 65 in 2010. The median number of energy drinks consumed in one “recreational” session was five units, and the median age of exposure was 17 years, with 57% of consumers male. A third of users co-ingested other substances including alcohol and other caffeinated products or amphetamines.

Commonly reported symptoms included palpitations, agitation, tremor and gastrointestinal upset. More serious cardiac or neurological toxicity was reported in 21 subjects, including hallucinations, seizures, arrhythmias and cardiac ischaemia.

Over 128 subjects required hospitalisation related to the side effects of energy drinks.

Of concern were the 62 children with a mean age of 38 months