Energy Drink Overdoses On The Rise

Energy Drink Overdoses On The Rise

Think there’s no risk involved in knocking back a Red Bull or a V when you need to stay alert for a big project (or an all-night gaming session)? A new study published in the Medical Journal of Australia highlights a massive rise in calls to poison information lines as a result of caffeine toxicity from energy drinks.

Picture by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

According to the study, there were just 12 calls to the NSW Poisons Information Centre concerning the effects of energy drinks in 2004. In 2010, that number had risen to 65. While it’s still not a large absolute figure, it is a major increase. The most commonly named brands were Red Bull, V, Pulse, Mother and RockStar. Over the same period, 128 people attended a hospital emergency department to deal with symptoms from energy drinks. Palpitations were the most common symptom, followed by tremors and shaking.

The paper argues that these drinks should be more closely regulated, especially given that they now comprise around one-fifth of all beverages sold in convenience stores:

Given the clear evidence of toxicity and the growing number of hospitalisations associated with consumption of energy drinks, particularly in a vulnerable adolescent population, health authorities should increase awareness of the problem, improve package labelling and regulate caffeine content.

Quite aside from the caffeine-related health risks, energy drinks have a very high sugar content, which has all sorts of medical impacts (alongside the obvious one of making you fat).

Ever felt the need for medical attention after too many energy drinks? Share your experiences in the comments.


  • I stopped drinking any type of Energy Drink back in 2003 after I was in a boring uni lecture. I had a can of energy drink in the break, and felt heart palpitations a while later. Never had that reaction to coffee or tea before, so I stick with those.

  • I survived uni thanks to V (and a variety of other drinks, including copious amounts of coffee and tea).

    These days I find that staying hydrated with tap water and two coffees a day is plenty to stay focussed at work.

  • I went off caffeine late last year, after doing a research paper on the effects of it. All the statistics I saw and ‘circumstantial’ evidence in regards to health issues were kinda eye-opening. I have felt a lot better and clearheaded since.

  • I just don’t get energy drinks. They might be able to wake you up and give you a caffeine fix, they just taste terrible and are mighty expensive to boot. What ever happened to people just enjoying several cups of coffee a day.

    I just to drink the watered down instant coffee you can find at machines. Now however with propper coffee, three to four cups a day is all I drink (spread out through morning, arvo and evening).

  • Maybe Wilkie can get onto this? I personally think they should be highly regulated. Anyone wishing to drink caffeinated drinks need an electronic pre-commitment card. You are only allowed to drink so many drinks up to your pre-defined limit, with a maximum limit set by government.

    Shop owners will need to keep track via an electronic system of how many drinks you’ve purchased that day and will be fined heavily if they attempt to profit be selling too many drinks to these problem ‘caffys’.

    To be far to all it will be extended to work coffee machines, disabling the ‘double-shot’ button and only allow a limited amount of cups per day.

    It will be illegal and fines will be issued if any utensils or alternative forms of supply allow one to bump up the caffeine levels to ‘unsafe’ amounts. (ie. no instant coffee mix or spoons).

  • Reading the actual study provides a bit more context. Many of the people who had consumed energy drinks had also taken recreational drugs. In addition, the caffeine content of a red bull is reasonably equivalent to a shot of espresso. People get palpitations from coffee (and other caffeine sources) too.

    The majority of hospital admissions were self presenting, and the study doesn’t indicate how many of the cases referred to hospital were done so on the basis of energy drinks alone (as opposed to the people who consumed both energy drinks and recreational drugs).

  • Gatorade (pictured) doesn’t have caffeine in it. I use it all the time for cycling and avoid caffeine as much as possible.

    Taken from the Gatorade FAQ – Does Gatorade contain caffeine? Why not?
    Currently, caffeine has no place in Gatorade products. Caffeine is a stimulant and many sports health professionals have concerns about athletes over-consuming caffeine.

  • I was a Red Bull junkie for 2 years, it started off at one small cand a day, then one big can/bottle a day. What made it worse was one of my customers could get slightly damaged boxes of 24 Red Bulls for $30, that’s when it pumped up to 4 cans a day, because they were so accessable.

    When I couldn’t get them anymore, I went to the Asian grocery store and got the Thai Red Bulls, they still had the same taste (albeit a flat version) so I started drinking those, they were only 150ml bottles so I drank two a go. I ended up finding out that they were equivalent to 3-4 small cans or western Red Bull, so theoretically I was having 8 cans a hit.

    During this time I started to get migraines, but I thought it was just stress related. What pushed me over the edge is I had half a Monster (becuase I saw the Ken Block video, yes I’m a sucker for product placement) it was so sweet I couldn’t even finish the whole lot. The next day I had such a bad migraine, my feet and hand had pins and needles, and my head felt like it was going to explode. That’s when I cut all energy drinks for a year.

    I still get the occasional migraine, and sometimes heart palpitations.

    I only drink Red Bull maybe once every 3-4 weeks, just for the taste, not for the “buzz”. As I say to my mates, if they made a Red Bull with out the caffeine and other nasties, I would happily drink that.

    I think most of the cases presented maybe from alcohol mixed with energy drink related problems, as both energy drinks and alcohol dehydrate the body.

  • awhile ago i done security i use to have a fair few redbulls/mother and etc etc a day till one day my heart felt like it was beating retardedly so i cut back to only one mother or monster nitrous and one dare iced coffee

    just an FYI i hate actual coffee as i hate any warm/hot drink

  • I never use to touch caffeine, but could never drive for long on the highway without zoning out. A couple of close calls later (as in “oh look, I’m in the other lane”), I decided to give one a go (an American Mountain Dew Voltage I think). Suddenly, a relevation, I could do the whole trip without my eyes fading at all, no problems. I usually take one or two each road trip now (don’t really need any more than that). Only used once for work, to keep me awake after a night of 2hrs sleep.

  • Everything in moderation.
    It is usually obese, sickly looking people that I notice swigging Monster, etc.
    In asia, this sorta shiz comes in 125 ml bottles (a much more rational dose) but I would instead opt to get my boost from slices of dried ginseng (admittedly, tastes like dirt.)
    Napping, a considered sleep scheduled, and maybe a macciato or two helps my through my longer days.

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