Energy-boosting drinks are beverages that contain ingredients marketed to increase energy and mental performance. Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy, Monster, Rockstar, and Full Throttle are examples of popular energy drink products. Not only are young people guzzling down these beverages but those who are middle age and beyond are indulging as well. Sales of these intensely caffeinated drinks have gone through the roof but are they causing health risks in older individuals?

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that from 2007 to 2011, the number of emergency room visits involving the consumption of non-alcoholic energy drinks doubled across the United States, to 20,783 from 10,068. But for adults aged 40 and older, such visits nearly quadrupled during the same period, to 5,233 from 1,382.

It seems that older folks who consume energy drinks might be compromising their health by doing so.  According to the SAMHSA report, emergency room complaints ran the gamut from headaches, hypertension, obesity, fatigue, dehydration, sleep disruption, blood flow issues, palpitations, and even heart attack. In some people, consuming energy drinks can also lead to such risk-seeking behaviors as substance misuse and aggression, and mental health problems that take on the form of anxiety and stress.

Energy drink companies typically make claims about their products that make them seem safe for consumption but many of these manufacturers are not as forthcoming as they should be about ingredients. A company might list caffeine as an ingredient but not reveal exactly how many milligrams of the stuff is actually in a product. Most energy drinks consist of similar ingredients — water, high sugar and caffeine levels, certain vitamins, minerals and non-nutritive stimulants such as guarana, taurine, and ginseng. Not very much is known about the non-nutritive stimulant guarana (another form of caffeine) an ingredient in many energy drinks, yet manufacturers are not required to include it in the caffeine content listed on a product’s label.

Depending on the type and size of the energy drink you consume, it is not hard to exceed the recommended amount of caffeine if you consume multiple energy drinks in one day.

According to Dr. Sohyun Park, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, some energy drinks may contain the equivalent of 14 cans of cola which can cause someone to have a seizure or even go into cardiac arrest.

If you decide to consume energy drinks, limit them to no more than 16 ounces (473 ml) of a standard energy drink per day and try to limit or do without, all other caffeinated beverages to avoid an excessive intake of caffeine. Before you guzzle down an energy-boosting drink, do, weigh its benefits against any potential risks. As with all things, energy drinks can harm but their actually doing so depends on numerous factors, such as the amount being consumed and the overall health state of the person drinking it.