One popular choice over the last several years has been to mix your alcoholic drink with caffeinated energy drinks. Mixing energy drinks and alcohol has seen a huge surge in popularity over the past few years. This unhealthy trend is seen more especially among the young.
Lately, young adults especially teenagers and college students are mixing their alcohol with energy drinks to stay high without feeling sleepy. This leads to binge drinking and all the adverse effects it has on your health.
The reason this mix is becoming popular is, because of the high content of caffeine in energy drinks, you do not feel the sedative effect of alcohol that you would otherwise have felt if you drank alcohol alone or with water.
The sedative effect of alcohol is masked by the stimulating effect of caffeine and you tend to drink more than the safety limits. Add to this the “good feeling”, energy drinks give you. This is described as “wide awake and drunk”.
It happens because caffeine is a stimulant and gives you a false feeling of alertness even after consuming your alcohol quota. You, then tend to drink more alcohol, which can increase your blood alcohol levels dangerously. This heavy drinking can lead to alcohol dependence and alcohol-attributable physical harm.
Caffeine has no effect on how fast your body metabolizes alcohol, so alcohol continues to stay in your body being slowly metabolized.
According to HealthDay, study co-author Cecile Marczinksi, Ph.D., of Northern Kentucky University, energy drinks do not change the level of a person’s impairment from alcohol, just their perception of it.
Dangers of drinking energy drinks and alcohol together
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans cautions against mixing alcohol with caffeine. Drinking this mix together can have adverse effects on your health and social life
Adverse effects on heart
Caffeine overdose and alcohol both affect the heart adversely. Having the two together can have a synergistic adverse impact on the heart leading to increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and heart attack.
Adverse effects on the brain
There is evidence to show that drinking a combination of alcohol and energy drinks has adverse physical and psychological side effects.
These effects are more pronounced after drinking the combination than after drinking alcohol alone.
Regular use of alcoholic energy drinks enhances brain damage leading to dementia and neuritis.
Increased risk of dehydration
Caffeine (which is richly present in energy drinks) and alcohol, each individually is a dehydrating agent.
Each causes excessive urination, which leads to dehydration. That is why after drinking alcohol, you feel thirsty and drink more water in the following morning. Drinking a mix of both can worsen your dehydration status.
We know that both energy drinks and alcohol are loaded with calories.
A small can of energy drink contains up to 30g of sugar, which s equal to 8 teaspoons of granulated sugar and 12 tsp of powdered sugar.
Most alcoholic drinks are also loaded with high calories. A 50ml measure of spirits (brandy, whiskey, gin, or rum) mixed with a can of energy drink contains 122 calories.
By adding energy drinks to alcohol, you tend to drink more than your normal quota of drinking alcohol alone, because the caffeine in the energy drink camouflages the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
That means if you usually drink 3 drinks of alcohol alone, you would tend to drink 4 or maybe 5 drinks of the combination to get the “high”.
You can imagine the calories consumed with this amount of combination intake. Your weight is definitely going to increase.
Chart showing calorie content in various alcoholic beverages
|Wine white dry||100ml||65|
|Wine white medium||100ml||70|
|Wine white sweet||100ml||90|
|Wine white sparkling||100ml||74|
Chart showing calorie content in various energy drinks
|Energy Drinks||Serving Size||Calorie Count|
|AMP Energy Boost||16 fl oz||220|
|Full Throttle||16 fl oz||220|
|Monster||16 fl oz||190|
|Rockstar||16 fl oz||140|
|Red Bull||8.4 fl oz||110|
|Celsius Energy Drink||12 fl oz||10|
|Monster Energy Drink (Low Carb)||16 fl oz||10|
|Bang||16 fl oz||0|
Increased tendency to binge drink
The feeling of “high” that alcohol gives along with the “feel good” sensation that energy drinks give makes you very vulnerable to getting addicted to this mixture.
You tend to binge drink. The possibility of addiction too looms large.
Binge drinking is a dangerous activity. It means drinking alcohol to the point of getting very drunk.
In men, binge drinking is defined as men having 5 drinks or more and women having 4 drinks or more in a row in less than two hours.
One drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
This amount of drinking produces alcohol levels in the blood far above the legal driving limit of 0.08%.
Being high makes you reckless and prone to accidental injuries, driving accidents, interpersonal violence, and risky sexual activity. Risky sexual behavior can put at risk of sexually transmitted diseases.
Other health complications
Regular consumption of the energy drink and alcohol mix makes you prone to get
- High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and rectum
- Weakening of the immune system, increasing the chances of falling sick often
- Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance
The alcohol content of a typical alcoholic energy drink can is 12 percent and contains caffeine equal to five cups of coffee. Compare this to one can of beer, which contains only 4 % to 5% of alcohol and no caffeine.
Many drinkers have fallen unconscious with dangerous high alcohol blood levels after consuming energy drinks mixed with alcohol.
The risk of alcohol poisoning is high because with this combination drink, you go on drinking one drink after another – faster because of the energy drink’s sweet taste and more because the caffeine in the energy drink does not let you get intoxicated easily.
Students have been admitted to hospitals after a drinking bout of these drinks with very high blood levels of alcohol — levels as high as 0.12 to 0.3. A blood alcohol level above 0.3 is considered potentially fatal.
Fatigue and a bad hangover
One other issue with energy drinks is that, when combined with alcohol, they increase the severity of a hangover.
Partying with energy drinks and alcohol allows you to party for longer hours and drink more alcohol than your normal quota.
Both these beverages have a dehydration effect, which you feel the following morning to be very severe. There is exhaustion and fatigue and a pounding headache that can keep you away from work.
Banning alcoholic energy drinks
Some manufacturers responded to this popular rising trend by developing pre-mixed versions of the combination drinks. Four Loko is one such drink and was marketed as an energy drink, but it contained up to 12 percent alcohol by volume.
Mounting pressure from various states led the manufacturers of such alcoholic energy drinks to reformulate their drink formulation.
In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put down restrictions and warned such drink manufacturers, including the makers of Four Loko, about the dangerous effects of these combination drinks.
In November of 2010, The Food & Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission took action against these brands emphasizing that caffeine is not a safe additive in alcohol. Many states in the US have already banned such drinks and others are on the way to doing so.
Some European countries like France, Norway, and Denmark have already banned alcoholic energy drinks.