Studies Show that Drinking Energy Drinks and Alcohol Creates Desire for More Alcohol

A recent study in Australia found that when people drink alcohol mixed with energy drinks, they have a stronger desire to keep drinking compared to people who drink alcohol with soda water.

This study, published in the Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research Journal, was conducted on 75 participants between the ages 18 and 30. Each participant was assigned to drink either just alcohol or an alcohol and energy drink combination. The people in the energy drink group received a 60 ml of vodka and a Red Bull energy drink. The people in the other group received 60 ml of vodka and soda water. To control for taste preferences and to mask the differences, all the drinks had a fruity beverage added to the mixture.

Before and after finishing the drink, each participant was given a questionnaire about his or her drinking experience. Results were then analyzed for changes. According to the surveys, the alcohol and energy drink group had a stronger desire to continue drinking compared to the group drinking only alcohol.

While participants in the study drank the same amount of alcohol, if this survey has larger implications, there could be serious consequences. If there is a relation to drinking alcohol with energy drinks, those two could be much more dangerous than assumed. As people get tipsier and continue to drink, it becomes harder for people to quit drinking. The implications for DUI’s, binge drinking, and public health could be serious.

What Is the True Effect of Mixing Alcohol with Energy Drinks?

The unfortunate fact is that we still know very little about the true effects of mixing alcohol with energy drinks. Although scientific studies like this one have increasingly demonstrated that the mixture may be worse for a person’s health than alcohol alone, there are still many gaps in scientific knowledge in this area.

There is a growing interest in how energy drinks and alcohol interact in the human body. As energy drinks grow in popularity, especially at bars as a mixer, it becomes even more important to know the consequences so that the public can be properly informed. It could be a public safety hazard.

The energy drink industry continues to grow every year. While it started as a $3.8 billion business in 1999, by 2013 it had spread globally and was worth $27.5 billion. If the popularity of these beverages continues to spread, it is important to know just what risks they entail and the spectrum of their effects so that people can imbibe energy drinks responsibly.


Federal Court Brings Charges against Producer of Dietary Supplements

A socialite who called herself the “Diet Queen to the Stars” was fined $60,000 on June 20, 2014 by a United States magistrate judge for misbranding a weight-loss supplement that was previously linked to suspensions of several National Football League players in 2008. Nikki Haskell and her now-obsolete company, Balanced Health Products, Inc., were sentenced by a federal judge in Manhattan, New York after issuing a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge involving the sale of a drug called StarCaps.

Prosecutors had initially pursued a $100,000 fine. Under a plea agreement announced in March 2014, Haskell, 73, also faced up to six months in prison. Haskell told the judge that she was “so remorseful for this” and that it was “never [her] intent to do anything inappropriate [her] entire life.”

Haskell, a onetime television show host, has occasionally appeared in the gossip column in the New York Post and had previously billed herself as the “Diet Queen to the Stars.” She was the chief executive of Balanced Health, the company that marketed the garlic-and papaya-containing StarCaps as an “all-natural diet supplement.”

However, in 2008, Balanced Health issued a voluntary recall of the product, citing the presence of bumetanide, which is used to treat high blood pressure, swelling, renal failure, and heart failure. It was also recalled because it carries serious health risks including electrolyte and fluid loss. Bumetanide is banned by the NFL and several other sports organizations as a potential steroid-masking agent.

During the hearing, Haskell claimed that she was unaware that StarCaps contained bumetanide, adding that she had never heard of the product until she received word of football players using it. In 2008, the NFL cited the product when it announced four-game suspensions to six players on the Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans, and New Orleans Saints who tested positive for several banned substances.

That same year, two other players, Grady Jackson of the Saints and Jamar Nesbit of the Atlanta Falcons, filed a lawsuit against Haskell and her company after the players tested positive for bumetanide and were consequently suspended from four games. In 2010, Haskell filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, listing potential multimillion-dollar lawsuits filed by the NFL, its players, and teams including the Texans, Falcons, Vikings, and Saints.

Ahead of the June 2014 hearing, Nesbit sent a letter to United States Magistrate Judge Netburn requesting that part of Haskell’s sentence include what Haskell’s lawyer, Chris Manicini, described as a “shocking” amount of money. A lawyer for Nesbit was not immediately available for comment.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Morey, the NFL had known since 2006 that the product in question contained bumetanide, but the organization allegedly failed to tell anyone. She said that this apparent lack of legal obligation to inform the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was “unfortunate,” although the agency had apparently found no evidence of injuries or deaths of anyone taking StarCaps.

Philip Walsky, acting director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, reported that there is a strict regulatory process in the United States for the dispensing and distribution of prescription drugs. According to Walsky, dietary supplements cannot legally contain these drugs. He maintains that the FDA will continue its vigilance in investigating the dietary supplement market.


The Dangers Behind Energy Drinks

According to a consumer advocacy group, energy drinks have been linked to 17 deaths since October 2012, prompting the group to request that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration add a safety warning on the caffeine-charged beverages to notify consumers of the risk of convulsions, heart attacks, and other adverse reactions to the energy drinks. In addition, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) asked the FDA to require thorough studies on the health effects of the various herbal and chemical ingredients such as guarana seed, milk thistle extract, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, carnitine, glucuronalactone, and taurine used in energy beverages as well as their potential interactions with caffeine.

While no study has successfully proven that these drinks directly caused the fatalities, CSPI reported that 34 people died over the last 10 years in the United States after drinking Rockstar, Monster, and 5-Hour Energy beverages. CSPI calculated the numbers using data obtained from the FDA. The executive director of CSPI stated that he doubts anyone understands what the chemicals in these beverages do, and it is not yet clear what their risks are.

Additionally, more than 50 individuals were hospitalized for heart attacks, convulsions, and high blood pressure after consuming the energy drinks. While adults often enjoy the caffeine boost to make it through their workdays, energy drinks are especially popular with teenagers and college-aged individuals who rely on caffeine for school and extracurricular activities. Studies show that few people realize the adverse effects that these drinks can have on one’s health, particularly since the main ingredient, caffeine, is readily available in sodas at any grocery store or gas station throughout the country.

An FDA spokesperson said that the agency has been continually studying the drinks over the past several years and is currently investigating the alleged fatalities. According to the agency, a person who consumes an energy drink and then passes away may not necessarily have died because of complications with the beverage. Rather, there may be other factors, including medications that the person may have been taking, or an existing condition such as heart disease, that was worsened or triggered by the ingredients in the drinks.

Christopher Gindlesperger, a representative for the American Beverage Association, maintained that energy drinks are safe as they meet all of the current standards required by the FDA. Still, CSPI has asked the FDA to lower the legally allowed amount of caffeine in the beverages to 71 milligrams per 12 ounces–the same amount that is permissible in sodas and other similar drinks.

This is not the first time that CSPI has asked the FDA to take action in an attempt to make products healthier for consumers. In 2003, CSPI succeeded in its 10-year campaign to list information pertaining to trans-fats on all Nutrition Facts labels. Two years later, the group urged the agency to update sugar-rich drinks with warning labels that inform consumers of the risk of obesity.


Caffeine Kills 18 Year Old

According to CBS News Correspondent Don Dahler, 18-year-old Logan Stiner of Ohio was found dead in his home, days before his high school graduation. Coroner Stephen Evans determined that the cause of death was a legal dosage of pure caffeine, stating, “We had never seen this before.” Evans reported that Stiner was a healthy young man and a high school wrestler, but that the amount of caffeine in his system at the time of death caused a cardiac arrhythmia and ultimately, a seizure. Although autopsy results did not reveal anything, additional blood tests concluded that Stiner had more than 70 micrograms of caffeine in his system.

Pure caffeine powder is readily available for purchase on the Internet, and because it is labeled as a supplement, it is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. An examination of bags of pure caffeine indicates that the recommended dosage is 250 milligrams, or one-sixth of a teaspoon, which is equivalent to three cans of Red Bull. However, if an individual takes one full teaspoon, it would be as though he or she is consuming 50 cans of Red Bull or 32 mugs of coffee at one time. Estimates as to how many teaspoons it would take to kill an adult vary from one to three, but it would take much less to kill a child.

A clinical toxicologist at the Poison Control Center at the University of Kansas reported that the form of caffeine that killed Logan is easy enough to purchase; Tama Sawyer stated that it could be found on Amazon for $12.95. However, while caffeine is not only available in powdered form–as several retailers also sell drink mixes containing caffeine, the difference is that the mixes are contained in measured pouches or bottles. The pure powder must be measured by the individual consuming the product, which may be the likely cause for an overdose.

What is most frightening, according to CBS News Contributor Dr. Tara Narula, is that almost everyone believes that caffeine is safe because it is found everywhere. Unfortunately, that misconception can have severe and sometimes fatal consequences. The message for children, adolescents, and adults is to understand that when people consume products that are not FDA-regulated, they may not be fully aware of how much of that product’s ingredients they are ingesting, and they may be uninformed of other potentially dangerous substances that could be mixed into the product.

Advertising of caffeine supplements such as energy drinks can be enticing, particularly for older children or adolescents who often want to fit in and feel good about themselves. Additionally, older teens or college-aged kids often buy into the marketing hype that promises mental alertness since people can “sprinkle” energy on anything. However, while they may believe that they are consuming a product that is safe, they often fail to recognize that in these harmful, unregulated doses, it can be deadly. Many medical experts believe that powdered caffeine must be regulated more closely as it is the number one stimulant drug in the U.S. and can be abused just like any other product.


CorticoSteroid Epidural Injections Warning by FDA

The FDA has issued a warning to medical professionals who use corticosteroid mediations for epidural injection for relief of pain. This measure was instituted after a number of serious reactions were reported in patients who received this treatment. Patient with long-term back or neck pain should consider the risks before undergoing this type of treatment for pain management.

Corticosteroid Medications

Steroids are powerful medications that are often used to reduce inflammation and pain caused by a number of medical conditions. A growing trend toward using these medications for spinal problems has brought attention to some of the serious reactions associated with its use. These drugs are injected into the spine using a number of different techniques. Corticosteroid drugs are available under a number of different names. Betamethasone, hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone, dexamethasone, and triamcinolone are just a few forms that are commonly used by physicians.

Epidural Corticosteroid Injection Procedures

Corticosteroid injections have become a popular method for treating low back pain, spinal stenosis pain, and nerve problems that radiate into the extremities. In this procedure, x-rays help to guide the physician into the correct position for injection of the medication. The surface skin is numbed with a local anesthetic. The medication is then deposited around the appropriate nerve root. Although the procedure has been considered low risk with only a few problems of inflammation of nerves or elevation of blood sugar, more serious effects have been reported that have made the procedure controversial.

FDA Warning

On April 23, 2014, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration issued a warning for the use of corticosteroid epidural injections for treating back, neck, and radiating pain in the arms and legs. Some rare but serious reactions were reported that cause the agency to issue this warning. Corticosteroid epidural injections used for these purposes can cause vision loss, strokes, paralysis, and sudden death.

Recommendations for Use

Patients should explore other options before undergoing epidural corticosteroid injection treatment. Discuss the benefits and risks of this treatment thoroughly with your physician before consenting to the treatment. Problems resulting from epidural corticosteroid injections are generally associated with physicians that have undergone minimal training in the procedure. Always ensure that your doctor is board-certified to ensure that he or she has sufficient training in the procedure to do it safely.