The Dangers of Energy Drinks and Alcohol

As a counselor for both classroom and online alcohol awareness classes, I have learned from my students their new affinity for mixing alcoholic beverages with caffinated energy drinks such as Red Bull. since I stopped drinking alcohol before energy drinks came into existence, I wanted to understand how this combination has become so popular.
If You Swallow This, You’ll Swallow Anything
Think fast – what do you call a beverage that combines alcohol with other ingredients? If you answered cocktail – you got it right. The first cocktails came into existence in about 1800 when people mixed any type of spirit with bitters, sugar or water.
At the start of the 19th century, there was a joke that cocktails were powerful tools for politicans with the thought that if you could be talked into drinking a cocktail, you would swallow anything. Perhaps that’s why I’m quite disenchanted with the current political situation (I’m not swallowing anything).
Is Mixing Such a Good Idea?
There is little doubt that today, in 2011, energy drinks are extremely popular, them and vitamin-enhanced water. Maybe I’m a hypocrite, but I neither one of them makes any sense to me. I take a vitamin supplement every morning and have no problem drinking ordinary tap water. I feel fortunate to live in a civilized society that gives us practically free healthy drinking water. While I don’t drink energy drinks I do like my coffee every morning (and occasionally after dinner).
Other than a dash of whiskey in a cup of coffee I had never combined alcohol with an energy drink. However combining the depressant – alcohol, with the stimulant – caffeinated energy drink, is the latest rage in alcoholic beverages.
I am guessing these concoctions taste good, but are they safe?
Don’t Let Yourself Get Gored by the Big Red Bull!
In theory consuming either an alcoholic beverage or energy drink is OK for you. Drinking too many of either one has proven to be not just unhealthy, but seriously hazardous to your health. Students of my alcohol awareness classes learn this in the first few hours.
The French have many strange food habits such as consuming escargot. Horse meat can be purchased from the local butcher. One thing you can’t buy in France – Red Bull! Let me guess what you’re thinking – why on Earth they would ban such a seemingly harmless beverage?
Red Bull was banned after a number of serious health incidents where Red Bull was drunk. The most notorious was the death of an eighteen year old athlete who died shortly after playing basketball and consuming four cans.
Energy Drinks Side Effects
Scientific research has shown these drinks have effects beyond the energy enhancing traits.. In some people the effects are positive, improving alertness and improving mental performance. However, when too many energy drinks are consumed people sometimes experience a “high” from over-stimulation, but more importantly have harmful common side effects like heightened agitation, anxiety and inability to sleep.
Energy drinks are also known to cause feelings of nauseousness, irregular heart rythms and even seizures.
Mixing Could Make Thing Worse!
Mixing caffeinated beverages with alcohol is not new. Cuba Libra is a classic example. However, Red Bull and other “modern-day” energy beverages have the same caffeine content as 3 colas.
One thing alcohol does is to change the ability of your brain to make smart choices. This is a proven fact – alcohol slows the mind’s ability to function and increases reaction time. A recent study showed that mixing alcoholic beverages with a drink with a lot of caffeine gave those who drank the toxic tonic a sense that they were more in control. This side effect might enable drinkers of these beverages to take more risks than had they just consumed alcohol alone.
Also, people who mix energy drinks and alcoholic beverages tended to consume on average two more drinks and think they still had control. Many students with blood-alcohol levels well above 0.10 said they were “100% in control.” The deceptive sense of sobriety provided by these energy drinks has a serious adverse effect on cognitive ability. Many students later had to take a minor in consumption class to learn that they actually weren’t in control.

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