Mixing energy drinks and alcohol may seem like a good idea at first. Alcohol can make a person sleepy and energy drinks can make a person feel more awake. But this popular combo can be deadly. Mixing stimulants and depressants is generally a bad idea unless it’s per the recommendation of a doctor.
Despite this fact, many Americans mix the two regardless of the potential consequences. Unfortunately, it’s not just American adults. In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that over 10% of young students drank energy drinks and alcohol. The study surveyed students as young as 12 years old! Facts like these only affirm how important it is to expose how dangerous energy drinks and alcohol can be.
Why Combining Energy Drinks and Alcohol Is Dangerous
One of the main ingredients in energy drinks is caffeine. On its own, caffeine isn’t deadly. In fact, it’s found in plenty of normally-consumed items, from chocolate to coffee. Similarly, an energy drink on its own isn’t necessarily dangerous. However, caffeine is a stimulant while alcohol is a depressant. Understanding what a stimulant and a depressant are can help explain why combining them is a deadly idea.
What are Stimulant Drugs?
Stimulants are drugs that speed up the body’s systems, which stem from the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is made up of the spinal cord and brain; the brain has chemical signals that are sent down the spinal cord to the other systems throughout the body.
Since the caffeine found in energy drinks is a stimulant drug, it too speeds up the body’s systems. Thus, energy drinks can affect people in the following ways:
- Makes them feel more awake and alert
- Can make someone feel more anxious
- Can make a person more excitable
- Some may feel more anxious because of it
- Raises the body’s temperature
- Increases heart rate
- Can induce dizziness
What are Depressant Drugs?
On the other hand, depressants are a class of drugs that slow down the body’s systems. It does this by impeding the chemical messages sent from the brain to the rest of the body via the spinal cord.
Alcohol is a depressant that tends to make people feel more at ease by slowing down those messages. Alcohol can have the following effects on people:
- Make people feel more relaxed
- Can increase confidence
- Induces drowsiness
- Slows reflexes
High levels of alcohol can be extremely dangerous. Even low levels can be detrimental to one’s health in some people. Too much alcohol can cause comas, seizures, depressed breathing, vomiting, and even death. This can happen even if it’s combined with an energy drink.
Combining Stimulants and Depressants Can Be Deadly
Energy drinks speed things up, alcohol slows things down. It’s true that the combination of the two can cancel out some of the effects of the other to some extent. While this may seem like a positive at first, it’s actually the opposite.
When people combine alcohol and energy drinks they may feel like they are less drunk than they actually are. Stimulants don’t speed up how quickly alcohol leaves the body, but people may feel that way after drinking an energy drink because they feel more awake. Plus, the vitamins and amino acids in energy drinks could make a person feel more energized.
Then, they might get behind the wheel and drive to their death or a DUI. One study found that people are four times more likely to feel like they can drive home after drinking energy drinks and alcohol in comparison to alcohol on its own.
Alternatively, this combo can make a person feel worse because of the side effects of stimulants and depressants. Too much caffeine or alcohol can make people feel dizzy. Drinking too much together can result in more severe adverse effects.
Energy Drinks and Alcohol Hurt Health
Alcohol hurts people’s health in more ways than one. Even large amounts of caffeine can result in adverse effects. Yet, there is another hidden danger in consuming energy drinks with alcohol.
While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned alcoholic energy drinks, it doesn’t stop people from mixing them. This combo is usually packed full of sugar, which is bad for health overall in large amounts. Harvard writes that too much sugar can result in high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart issues. Not to mention, it also contributes to the growing obesity epidemic in the USA.
How Alcohol and Energy Drinks Affect Young People
According to the CDC, 31% of Americans ages 12 to 17 consume energy drinks regularly. It makes sense, then, that energy drinks are often marketed to young adults. This isn’t speculation.
In fact, US Sen. Chuck Schumer stated that a certain alcoholic energy drink was specifically marketed to the younger generation. At the time that he said this, he was talking about the infamous Four Loko. This beverage contained a large amount of both caffeine and alcohol but removed caffeine after the hospitalization and deaths of college students. However, there are still other alcoholic energy drinks out there that have not done the same.
The Dangers of Underage Drinking
In 2019, approximately a quarter of all American teenagers ages 14 to 15 admitted to drinking. Unfortunately, underage drinking is a large problem in the United States. It’s only made worse with drinks that target a young market and don’t make the repercussions of drinking clear.
One study examined students at a high school in Michigan in regards to alcohol and energy drinks. What they found was that teens who combined the two were twice as likely to engage in binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as six or more standard drinks per event, though the number varies per source and per gender.
The fact is that the dangers of underage drinking are a lot more than what happens as a result (like car crashes and risky behavior). A study by Purdue University found that giving alcoholic energy drinks to young mice produced similar effects to when given cocaine. These results seemed to result in a lifetime, neurological change.
The Long-Term Effect of Underage Drinking
Binge drinking is dangerous to all people. However, the consequences weigh more on young adults because their neurological network isn’t fully formed. Drinking in excess, which statistically happens more with alcohol and energy drinks, can cause permanent brain damage.
Research indicates that young adults who heavily drink have smaller sections of the brain than their peers who don’t drink. This affects a young adult’s memory and their brain’s ability overall. On top of this, people who drink before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop an alcohol dependence later on in life.
Parents should seek alcohol addiction treatment for their child if their child is consuming alcohol. It could lead to much worse problems in the future.
Avoid Dangerous Energy Drink and Alcohol Consumption
It’s never a good idea to drink alcohol and energy drinks together. Both contain two different drugs that are likely to make someone underestimate how drunk they are or make them feel much more inebriated. However, these tips can avoid a risky situation.
- Only have one standard drink per hour. A standard drink is 14 grams of pure alcohol. Sticking to one drink in an hour can prevent getting too drunk. People consuming alcohol should keep an eye on how much they’re drinking; not how much they feel like they have drunk.
- Eat a big meal before drinking. There is no way to lower blood alcohol content (BAC) aside from waiting it out. Yet, eating a big meal beforehand can slow down how quickly alcohol is absorbed.
- Drink a mocktail. There are many tasty, alternative versions of alcoholic drinks. Choose to make a mocktail with an energy drink minus the alcohol.
- Check the serving size on alcoholic energy drinks. It’s always best to abstain from combining an energy drink and alcohol. However, if it happens, it’s best to check the serving size of the drink. Some drinks can contain four servings, which is only revealed in the nutritional information.
- Don’t drive after any amount of drinking. A combo of energy drinks and alcoholic beverages can give someone the impression that they’re sober. Eliminate the risk of driving by opting to take a taxi or an Uber to any social events where drinking is involved.
- Buy a portable breathalyzer. Since energy drinks can make a drunk person feel soberer, a breathalyzer may be a life-saving investment. A good one can cost as little as $40 and lets a person understand if it’s actually safe for them to drive or not. A 0.08%+ BAC indicates drunkenness.
Find Alcohol Addiction Help Here
Drinking once in a while isn’t necessarily a bad thing (although it’s not good either). But, mixing alcohol and energy drinks is never a good idea. Both together can make a person feel like he or she isn’t drunk, which leads to riskier behavior.
If you or a loved one engages in risky behavior after drinking, it might be time to get professional help. Harmony Place offers alcohol use treatment in California to help people overcome the bonds of addiction. Contact us now to learn more about our programs and services.