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Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are popular, especially among the younger population. About 34% of 12- to 24-year-olds regularly imbibe these beverages. When ingested without anything else mixed in, energy drinks stimulate the mind and body due to the usually high dosage of caffeine. And when mixed with alcohol, they can cause serious and dangerous side effects.

What’s in Energy Drinks?

Energy drinks contain caffeine and other natural stimulants including sugar, ginseng, guarana and taurine. Most energy drinks contain three times the caffeine that is found in a regular soda. A 16-ounce energy drink has about 160 mg of caffeine versus a cup of coffee that contains 95 mg.

  • Red Bull is the most popular energy drink choice
  • Monster
  • Rockstar Energy
  • Amp

Caffeine Side Effects

Caffeine affects the body in many ways:

  • Fast heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Palpitations
  • Increased risk of cardiac arrhythmias
  • Intensified anxiety

The cardiac complications of mixing energy drinks and alcohol originate from two facts:

  • Energy drinks contain stimulants that rev up the system
  • Alcohol is a depressant

Mixing these two mechanisms can cause serious cardiac problems. The stimulant and depressant combination sends a confusing message to the nervous system.

Dangerous Mixology

When energy drinks are mixed alcohol serious adverse reactions can result. The two together can be dangerous since:

  • The stimulant effect of the caffeine counteracts the level of alcohol impairment giving the drinker a false sense of how drunk they are
  • When the stimulant result of the energy drink wears off, the sedating effects of the alcohol are still present
  • These depressant effects cause vomiting and the risk of choking, especially while sleeping
  • A slowed respiratory rate can be a serious physical problem

Stats behind Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks

People who mix alcohol and energy drinks are:

2 times more likely to:

  • Be sexually assaulted or take advantage of someone else
  • Ride with a driver who is inebriated

3 times more apt to:

4 times more likely to:

  • Drive drunk; the stimulants in the energy drink provide enough of a boost that the effects of the alcohol are subdued

The end result is that mixing an energy drink with alcohol results in the same blood alcohol content (BAC) as drinking alcohol alone.

The Bottom Line

Mixing energy drinks with alcohol equates to getting high without getting drowsy or sleepy. Why is this a problem?

Sleepiness is the body’s process to indicate that enough alcohol has been ingested. Adding an energy drink actually deceives the body about how physically drunk the person is. When a person mixes an energy drink with alcohol, they feel less impaired than they actually are. There are potentially dangerous results lurking when someone is in that impaired physical and mental state.

Energy drinks and alcohol cause dehydration. Dehydration slows the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol, which can lead to a significant hangover. Feeling less drunk leads to more drinking and potential alcohol poisoning, which is a very serious physical state that can result in death.


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