By: Erin Caine
On their own, alcohol and energy drinks each have their fair share of potential consequences—when not taken in moderation, that is—but together they create a surprisingly dangerous combination. Not only does mixing the two make you want to drink more (therefore increasing your likelihood of binge drinking), but it also masks the signs of inebriation and increases the likelihood of engaging in reckless behavior like drunk driving.
On this subject, Cecile Marczinski, associate professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University, said, “The caffeine rush in energy drinks makes [drinkers] look and feel more balanced and coordinated than their drinking would suggest, leading some drinkers to believe they’re not actually drunk.” According to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for about 88,000 deaths in the United States every year with binge drinking accounting for nearly half of those deaths. Caffeinated alcoholic drinks can lead to some of the potential side effects and consequences listed below:
- Those who consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks are three times more likely to binge drink. Binge drinking is associated with a number of harmful consequences, including high blood pressure, liver disease, neurological damage, and alcohol poisoning.
- People who consume alcohol with energy drinks are almost twice as likely to report being taken advantage of or to report taking advantage of someone else sexually than drinkers who do not. It’s no secret that rape and sexual assault are serious and widespread issues on college campuses. A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health has found that one in five freshman women said that they had been sexually taken advantage of when incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.
- When alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, the caffeine (the stimulant) in these drinks can disguise the depressing effects of alcohol. At the same time, caffeine has absolutely no effect on the liver’s absorption of alcohol and thus does not reduce alcohol concentrations in the blood or reduce the risk of harming yourself or others.
- If you combine alcohol and energy drinks you can experience physical and psychological complications, more so than if you drank just alcohol. This includes heart palpitations, sleeping problems, and anxiousness—side effects of the large amounts of caffeine in energy drinks. “Caffeine is a long lasting drug,” said Professor Jonathan Chick, a consultant psychiatrist for Spire Edinburgh Hospitals. “In high quantities, it increases the heart rate and so does alcohol. And although alcohol sends you to sleep, it can cause you to wake up in the night. So people who consume both may well expect to have a doubling of their mid to late night insomnia.” There is also an increase in the risk of anxiety and panic attacks.
While mixing alcohol and energy drinks may seem convenient or in line with the trends of modern drinking culture, its consequences far outweigh its ostensible benefits. When drinking, it’s best to remember to not only drink in moderation, but to also be mindful of the ingredients are going into your cup and the consequences those ingredients will have when combined with alcohol.