Cocktails containing alcohol and energy drinks have become increasingly more popular in the United States, with drinks like Vod-Bombs (vodka and Red Bull) being served at popular clubs and bars everywhere. While initially popular with a younger demographic, this combination beverage is steadily gaining a powerful foothold in America’s nightlife and party culture with users of all ages. Consequently there have been increasing reports of serious health threats as a result of the consumption of these beverages. These problems are severely exacerbated by the fact that very few people are aware of the inherent dangers associated with combining energy drinks and alcohol.
Even before being added to alcohol, energy drinks pose a serious world-wide health threat. For instance, in the United States, the FDA sets the maximum caffeine content of food items at 71mg. But because energy drinks are classified as nutritional supplements they are not bound by this maximum, with some energy drinks containing as much as 400mg of caffeine. Energy drinks also contain other stimulants such as taurine and guarana, among many others. This level of stimulation alone has been known to cause severe complications including seizures, dehydration, heart failure, hypertension, liver damage, respiratory issues, kidney failure, psychoses, and even death.
Unlike energy drinks, alcohol is a depressant with well-known and well-documented effects. There exists an unfortunate myth that because energy drinks are stimulants they will offset the effects of alcohol and allow a person to remain alert and fully functioning. However, this could not be farther from the truth. Both the stimulant effects of energy drinks and the depressant effects of alcohol occur at the same time and one has no impact on the other. So, while a person might feel very awake and capable, their blood alcohol level does not change and therefore they are often impaired without realizing it.
The dual effects of these substances often cause people to engage in extremely risky behavior. The consumption of alcohol and energy drinks has been associated with greatly increased instances of drunk-driving, sexual assault, aggression or violence, and other dangerous behaviors. These high risk factors are especially troublesome considering that the average age of people who mix alcohol and energy drinks is between 19 and 22 years old; a demographic that is already more prone to engage in risky behaviors even without drugs or alcohol. And because both energy drinks and alcohol are usually consumed in excess, addiction is likely, with few users understanding how addictive high levels of caffeine can really be; not to mention its powerful effects on the human body.
Public health and government officials have recognized this danger and states are mobilizing on the issue, with Washington State taking aggressive action and banning all such drinks in late 2010, leading the way for several other states to follow suit. Colleges and universities have also launched numerous public awareness campaigns, but progress has been slow to this point. However, with legislation being considered in numerous states to ban, reclassify or regulate energy drinks, the problem may become more publicly debated in the near future.
Until then, if you find that your life isn’t what it should be because of alcohol and energy drinks, you should seek help immediately. We’re here 24 hours per day to answer any questions you might have about treatment for addiction to these or any other substances.