Mixing Alcohol & Energy Drinks May Spell Disaster

by Keith Cambrel

Energy drinks are reaching their peak in popularity and continue to sell mass quantities to their youthful target audience.

The most popular of the new wave of energy drinks is Red Bull, the drink that promises to give its drinkers wings. Venom, Adrenaline Rush, 180, ISO Sprint and Erektus are the names of some the other popular energy drinks out on the market.

These drinks claim to stimulate the mind and body plus provide a boost of energy but can have adverse effects when mixed with alcohol.

Lately college students and teens have been mixing these energy drinks with alcohol as a means of getting a high without getting sleepy.

Steve Clarke, director of the College Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center, said students need to be careful about mixing these energy drinks with alcohol.

Fatigue is the body's way of saying it's had enough to drink and it's dangerous to continue to try to fool your body that you're not as drunk as you really are, he said.

"Even though (the energy drink) has stimulants in it, the alcohol is still going to have similar effects on you," Clarke said. "You may feel more alert but actually the alcohol is having the same effect on you. So you might perceive that you are less impaired when in actuality you are not less impaired."

According to the Red Bull website there is no indication that the drink has any negative effects related to alcohol consumption including the elimination of ethanol.

However, Red Bull contains 80 mg of caffeine per can.

High levels of caffeine can boost heart rate and blood pressure, causing palpitations, according to National Institute of Health. Mixing these drinks with alcohol further increases the risk of heart rhythm problems.

"Energy drinks have a lot of stimulants in them like ginseng and taurine, while alcohol is a depressant so by mixing the two you're sending mixed messages to your nervous system which can cause cardiac related problems," Clarke said.

Clarke said the appeal behind mixing energy drinks with alcohol is the promise of sustained rush that would allow people to go on drinking longer into the night and combat hangovers.

Alcohol makes people dehydrated, he said, which is one of the reasons why people have hangovers, and the caffeine in the energy drinks is a diuretic which also causes people to lose water. So it makes the effects of dehydration worse.

"You might feel that you can party for a long time, but in reality you are just going to have a greater hangover effect the next day," Clarke said.

He also said students are increasing their risk of having a bad reaction to the drinks by mixing them with alcohol.

Students need to try these energy beverages to see how body responds to them before consuming them with alcohol, he said.

"You might have some pre-existing medical condition or you might have an adverse reaction to some of the stimulants that are in those drinks," Clarke said.

For those students who decide to mix alcohol with energy drinks Clarke feels it's safest to limit your consumption to one of these mixtures to lower any risk of negative side effects.

He also said it would be more positive to alternate non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages because it will keep you hydrated and decrease the negative effects of alcohol.

 

Keith Cambrel is a writer for the Collegiate Times, the student newspaper of Virginia Tech. Reprinted with permission of the paper (www.collegiatetimes.com).

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