Energy Drinks and Alcohol
Many writers* have argued that consuming energy drinks and alcohol can be harmful. They fear it might reduce the sense of intoxication. In turn, this might lead to drinking more alcohol. This concern has led to laws and policies about combining energy drinks and alcohol.
Researchers reviewed the scientific evidence on the effects of mixing energy drinks and alcohol. They found virtually no evidence that energy drinks influence any behavioral effects of drinking. There was no reliable evidence that energy drinks effect the perceived level of intoxication by drinkers. They found no evidence that mixing energy drinks and alcohol leads to alcohol or drug abuse or dependence. And they found no adverse health effects for healthy individuals from combining energy drinks and alcohol.
Verster, J., et al. Energy drinks mixed with alcohol: Misconceptions, myths, and facts. Int J Gen Med, 2012, 5, 187-198.
* The following is an example of concern.
Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks May Spell Disaster
by Keith Cambrel
Energy drinks are reaching their peak in popularity and continue to sell mass quantities to their youthful target audience.
The most popular of the new wave of energy drinks is Red Bull. It’s the drink that promises to give its drinkers wings. Venom, Adrenaline Rush, 180, ISO Sprint and Erektus. These are the names of some the other popular energy drinks out on the market.
These drinks claim to stimulate the mind and body plus provide a boost of energy. But they can have adverse effects when mixed with alcohol.
Lately college students and teens have been mixing these energy drinks with alcohol. It’s a means of getting a high without getting sleepy.
Fatigue is the body’s way of saying it’s had enough to drink. It’s dangerous to fool your body that you’re not as drunk as you really are, he said.
“Even though (the energy drink) has stimulants in it, the alcohol is still going to have similar effects on you,” Clarke said. “You may feel more alert but actually the alcohol is having the same effect on you. So you might perceive that you are less impaired when in actuality you are not less impaired.”
Red Bull contains 80 mg of caffeine per can. High levels of caffeine can boost heart rate and blood pressure, causing palpitations. Mixing these drinks with alcohol further increases the risk of heart rhythm problems.
“Energy drinks have a lot of stimulants in them like ginseng and taurine, while alcohol is a depressant. So by mixing the two you’re sending mixed messages to your nervous system. This can cause cardiac related problems,” Clarke said.
Clarke said the appeal behind mixing energy drinks with drinking is the promise of sustained rush. That would allow people to go on drinking longer into the night and combat hangovers.
Alcohol makes people dehydrated, he said. This is one of the reasons why people have hangovers. And the caffeine in the energy drinks is a diuretic which also causes people to lose water. So it makes the effects of dehydration worse.
“You might feel that you can party for a long time. But in reality you are just going to have a greater hangover effect the next day,” Clarke said.
He also said students increase their risk of a bad reaction by mixing them with alcohol.
Students need to try these energy beverages to see how body responds to them. They should do that before consuming them with alcohol, he said.
“You might have some pre-existing medical condition. Or you might have an adverse reaction to some of the stimulants that are in those drinks,” Clarke said.
Clarke feels it’s safest to limit consumption to one of these mixtures to lower any risk of negative side effects.
He also said it would be more positive to alternate non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. That will keep you hydrated and decrease the negative effects of alcohol.
Keith Cambrel is a writer for the Collegiate Times (Virginia Tech). Reprinted with permission.
Readings on Combining Energy Drinks and Alcohol
These materials are inconsistent with subsequent research. They’re all linked for your convenience.
CBC. Raging Bull: Red Bull Energy Drink Controversy. (eVideo)
NY: Films Media Group, 2007.
Greenemeier, L. Why Are Caffeinated Alcoholic Energy Drinks Dangerous? Scien Am, Nov 9, 2010.
Jones, S., et al. Why (not) alcohol energy drinks? A qualitative study with Australian university students. Drug Alco Rev, 31(3), 281-287.
Minderhout, C. Energy Drinks with Alcohol Still a Risky Mix. Food Safety News, May 2, 2011.
Schloat, A., et al. Buzz in a Bottle, The Dangers of Caffeine-Spiked Energy Drinks. (DVD video) Mount Kisco, NY: Human Rel Media, 2010.
Simon, M. Alcohol, Energy Drinks, and Youth. A Dangerous Mix. San Rafael, CA: Marin Inst, 2007.
VA State ABC. Alcohol? Energy? Both? Looks Can be Deceiving. Richmond: VA State ABC, 2011.
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