If you’re planning on meeting up with friends and staying out later than usual for a night of drinking, you might pick up an energy drink from the gas station on your way. While the practice of mixing energy drinks and alcohol may seem harmless, and even common, the truth is that combining these two beverages can be quite risky. Below, learn about the dangers associated with consuming an energy drink with alcohol, and if you’re struggling to cut back on your drinking, you’ll find information about alcohol rehab and medication assisted treatment for alcohol use.
What are energy drinks?
Energy drinks are a form of soft drink that contains caffeine and other ingredients, which are intended to increase alertness and boost energy levels by stimulating the metabolism or the central nervous system. Different energy drinks can contain varying levels of caffeine, which can create risks.
While not common, caffeine toxicity is possible with energy drink consumption. It occurs at lower doses of caffeine consumption for those who have heart conditions or seizure disorders. People who consume energy drinks in excessive quantities are at risk of caffeine toxicity. Common symptoms of caffeine toxicity include nervousness, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, gastrointestinal discomfort, tremors, elevated heart rate, and psychomotor agitation (pacing, etc.). In rare cases, caffeine toxicity can lead to death.
Many energy drinks also contain taurine, which is believed to reduce muscle fatigue and enhance the effects of caffeine. Taurine is banned in some countries because of its connection to death among athletes. Guarana, a botanical ingredient, is also commonly found in energy drinks. It contains significantly more caffeine than coffee beans, and is believed to increase energy levels. Common side effects associated with guarana include insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, tachycardia, tremors, anxiety, and chest pain.
While amounts of ingredients like guarana and taurine are typically low in energy drinks, the truth is that these beverages still contain high amounts of caffeine, which can be problematic. For instance, consumption of energy drinks is linked to significant increases in blood pressure. Many are also high in sugar, which increases the risk of diabetes and tooth decay.
Most Common Energy Drink Brand Names
You’ll probably recognize some of the names on the list of the most popular energy drinks, which include:
- Red Bull
Popularity of Energy Drinks in Teens and Young Adults
One of the factors that makes it dangerous to mix energy drinks and alcohol is that energy drink consumption is more popular in younger populations. One recent study found that 1.4% of teens, 5.5% of young adults, and 1.2% of middle-aged adults are energy drink consumers. The popularity of these beverages has grown among all age groups in recent years, according to the study.
What is problematic about energy drink consumption in teens and young adults is that these age groups tend to be unaware of the potential negative side effects associated with these beverages. Furthermore, the practice of mixing energy drinks with alcohol is more common in teens and young adults. In fact, one study found that half of college students had mixed energy drinks and alcohol, or used energy drinks to compensate for lack of sleep.
Is it safe to mix alcohol and energy drinks
The general consensus is that the combination of alcohol and energy drinks is not safe. In fact, one unique alcoholic beverage, called Four Loko, included caffeine and other ingredients common in energy drinks. This alcohol-containing energy drink was linked to numerous alcohol-related hospitalizations during the height of its popularity.
As a result, Four Loko came to be known as a “blackout in a can,” and its manufacturers were named in several wrongful death lawsuits. Due to concerns surrounding Four Loko, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared in November 2010 that it was illegal to add caffeine to alcoholic beverages. The FDA specifically stated that caffeine-containing alcoholic beverages are potentially “hazardous and life-threatening.”