Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks

Alcohol misuse alone is already one of the primary college health issues across the country. Its use leads to more deaths, disease, academic, and occupational problems than all illegal drugs combined. Energy drinks also can be dangerous due to the high doses of caffeine from guarana, ephedrine, taurine, and ginseng, which are legal stimulants. High doses of caffeine can have negative health consequences such as increased blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia and may impair the body's immune system.

The combination of high doses of alcohol and caffeine can likely increase the risks people experience. Alcohol is a depressant, which slows the functions of the brain, causing drowsiness, impaired cognitive functioning such as poor concentration, judgment, and coordination, and emotional mood swings. Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase alertness, nervousness, and dizziness. The mixture results in a "wide awake drunk," where drinkers mistakenly conclude they can perform tasks such as driving due to consuming high doses of alcohol and caffeine.

In the April 2010 issue of Addictive Behaviors, a study examined the consequences of mixing alcohol with energy drinks. The researchers found that the combination contributed to three times the risk of leaving a bar intoxicated and four times more likely to intend to drink and drive compared to those who only drank alcohol.

Top Reasons to Avoid Caffeinated Alcoholic Drinks

  • Together, alcohol and caffeine can create the feeling that a person is more alert when drunk, which can contribute to drinking and driving, injuries, and poor choices.
  • Both alcohol and caffeine have a diuretic effect, encouraging the body to lose more water than it takes on by halting the production of the body's anti-diuretic hormone. As a consequence, they can cause dehydration, severe headaches, and increased urination.
  • The effects keep drinkers from realizing how intoxicated they are, disarm the body's natural defense to become drowsy, and cause severe hangovers.
  • Adding caffeine to alcohol can make drinking alcohol more addictive.

Students should always understand how alcohol effects the body. This emerging trend with energy drinks and alcohol is another danger to consider.

How to Avoid Problems

  • To avoid these negative consequences, it is best to avoid these drinks in favor of more responsible and moderate drinking options.
  • Students should always know what they are drinking, which may require reading the labels for alcohol, caffeine, and other content.

Stanford University - Office of Alcohol Policy and Education