Alcohol and Energy Drinks: Dangers and Effects

Alcohol and energy drinks may be harmful to your health. They both have their own sets of hazards but, by drinking them together, you’re exponentially more likely to experience serious side effects like heart palpitations or even death.

In 2005, Phusion introduced its line of malted beverages dubbed, Four Loko. Its high alcohol content (12% ABV), fruity flavors and colorful packaging, and marketing characterized the alcoholic beverage. What set this malted beverage apart from other readily available alcoholic beverages was the inclusion of caffeine and other stimulants, like guarana. Four Lokos rapidly gained popularity, especially among younger drinkers and on college campuses nationwide. It also brought the dangers of mixing alcohol and stimulants to the forefront.

Drinking just two cans of Four Loko in an hour is the equivalent of imbibing over ten alcoholic drinks. When your body can’t metabolize alcohol that quickly, it builds up and may cause dangerous side effects such as the shutting down of the respiratory centers of your brain. Alcohol and caffeine are a dangerous combination. Alcoholic energy drinks may cause binge drinking and also increases your risk of engaging in other risky behaviors like driving while intoxicated, being violent towards others, and hurting yourself by drinking too much without realizing how dangerously impaired you really are.

Faced with mounting pressure that included an outright ban in four states, Phusion removed the stimulants from its product in 2010. While Four Loko might be the most high-profile example of the dangers of mixing stimulants with alcohol, it was certainly not an isolated phenomenon and one that didn’t end with the discontinuation of the original recipe of Four Loko. The pursuit of a “wide-awake drunk” continues to be extremely popular – and dangerous.

Mixing Alcohol & Energy Drinks: Dangers and Effects

Many people drink energy drinks when they are intoxicated because the stimulant effects make them feel soberer. In reality, these individuals have the same blood-alcohol content as if they had not consumed an energy beverage and there is a greater risk for extreme intoxication, alcohol poisoning, hospitalization, or taking risks while under this influence of caffeine than without it.

Binge drinking may lead to a range of health problems including depression, anxiety, and even death.

Mixing these two substances may also impact your mental health. Binge drinkers might experience feelings of anger or irritability alongside physical side effects such as anxiety or depression. Alcohol is already addictive on its own, and when it’s mixed with caffeine from an energy drink, the risk for addiction increases exponentially.

The Effects of Combining Energy Drinks and Alcohol

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that affects your body in numerous ways, including giving you an energy boost and even helping to regulate blood pressure. It’s so widely available that the U.S Food and Drug Administration says about 80% of adults take some form of caffeine every day.

If you need a little extra energy to get through the day, caffeine is an easy fix, but too much can cause withdrawal symptoms and make it hard for your body to relax at night. According to some experts, healthy adults should stick with 400 milligrams of caffeine per day which is about 8 ounces, or one cup from Starbucks (a small coffee has less than 100 milligrams). The caffeine content for many energy drinks is not reported on the packaging, however, making it difficult to assess one’s intake.

Alcohol is produced from fermented sugars. The sugar found in grapes, for example, creates wine; barley produces beer; apple cider exists as the product of apples and other products can create a variety of liquors like vodka or beets. While alcohol can be a mild stimulant in small doses, it is generally classified as a hypnotic sedative that acts to depress the central nervous system and can affect mood and cognitive abilities with medium or high levels of intake. 

When taken together in high doses, which is often the case with caffeinated alcoholic beverages since energy drinks are often paired with liquors like vodka, these two substances can create opposing physiological and psychological effects within the user.

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Potential Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks

Mixing alcohol with caffeine does not mitigate the effects of the other, and instead only acts to mask the negative effects of the other. An intoxicated person who has also consumed a large quantity of caffeine is no less intoxicated, they are merely feeling the effects of a chemical stimulant at the same time.

The dangerous nature of combining alcohol with energy drinks has led many people into emergency rooms across America in recent years- sometimes requiring hospitalization due to complications from consuming these substances together such as cardiac arrest or seizures among other possible effects on mental health and bodily systems caused by mixing them together.

Potential risks include:

Alcohol Poisoning: Being intoxicated for a long period of time and consuming high levels of caffeine can lead to alcohol poisoning. Alcohol overdose symptoms include an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, anxiety attacks, and seizures.

Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Those who combine alcohol and energy drinks can easily lose track of how many they’ve consumed. This is because the caffeine in an energy drink masks or diminishes feelings of drunkenness, so drinkers believe they are less drunk than what their blood-alcohol content actually shows them to be. Excessive drinking could occur as a result of realizing it – especially if you’re consuming other beverages.

Risky Behaviors: Those drinking alcohol and energy drinks may be at risk for engaging in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, violence or fighting, smoking cigarettes, or prescription drug misuse. They may also be more likely to drive drunk.

Why Young Adults Are Most at Risk

The non-traditional, and often fruity, flavors of caffeinated alcoholic beverages, splashy and colorful marketing efforts, and portrayals in media targeting a younger demographic, have made the mixing of caffeine and alcohol appealing to underaged and college-aged drinkers.

Alcohol mixed with energy drinks has become a popular drink for college-aged students. According to a University of Michigan study done in 2017, 31.8% of young adults aged 19 to 28 consumed energy drinks mixed with in the past year, and 10.6% of high schoolers high school seniors did too.

Avoiding the Dangers of Drinking

Alcohol-related problems are among the most significant public health issues in our country. Drinking too much, drinking fast, and often all contribute to these harmful outcomes that impact society’s wellbeing on many levels. Approximately 17 million adults ages 18 and older have an alcohol use disorder (AUD) while 1 in 10 children live with a parent who has a drinking problem.

Riverside Recovery of Tampa is a facility that offers a full continuum of care, from medical detox to intensive outpatient. Our approach includes using evidence-based technology and mindful meditation in order to create an environment for our clients that encourages recovery. We made every aspect of the building with this goal in mind: From its views overlooking the river to specific lighting and floors, every detail supports healing within our walls while offering tranquility outside them as well.

To learn more about alcohol abuse and our treatment options, contact our admissions team today. 

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