American adolescents show that energy drinks and alcohol are popular in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that over 10% of students as young as 12 consumed energy drinks and alcohol in 2017.
Alcohol and energy drinks are cocktails that can induce a world of hurt and legal trouble. The clashing nature of stimulants and depressants makes it so. There are a number of reasons why everyone should avoid mixing energy drinks and alcohol.
Dangers of Combining Energy Drinks and Alcohol
Energy drinks and alcohol is a centuries-old combination. For example, Italians back in the day combined brandy with coffee to concoct cafe correcto. Yet, modern scientific research shows that this combination can be deadly.
Ultimately, it’s the fact that stimulants and depressants are a match made in hell. Despite this, bars and your local gas station popularize just this. A depressant is a class of drug that slows down the body’s systems. On the other hand, stimulant drugs speed up the body’s systems.
Depressants tend to affect individuals in this way:
- Heightened mood (whatever it may be)
Stimulants have a similar effect in some ways, but act differently as a whole:
Hence, energy drinks with alcohol may seem like a great thing. One cancels out the negative side effects of the other. Actually, this is what makes it so dangerous. Most energy drinks contain the stimulant drug, caffeine. This element is found in coffee, tea, and even dark chocolate. Caffeine makes a person feel awake and energized, contrary to what alcohol does as a depressant. For this reason, consumers aren’t able to tell how drunk they are.
The Relationship Between Binge Drinking and Alcoholic Energy Drinks
Therefore, this deadly duo can easily lead to high levels of binge drinking. The CDC classifies high-level binge drinking as consuming six or more standard drinks within an episode. Though, binge drinking as a whole is typically five or more drinks in a day for men and four for women.
With this in mind, younger individuals are four times more likely to engage in high-level binge drinking with an energy drink and alcohol. Drinkers who do this report more injuries, unprotected sex, and driving drunk or with a driver who is drunk.
How Energy Drinks and Alcohol Affect Young Americans
One might think that alcoholic beverages mixed with energy drinks only does harm to American adults. On the contrary, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports differently. According to NIAAA, underage drinking is a problem in the United States. For example, around 25% of 14 to 15-year-olds had at least one full drink in 2019. In the same year, Americans 12-20 drank beyond a couple of sips of alcohol in one sitting.
Adding to this, the CDC writes about how mixing an energy drink with alcohol is particularly dangerous for American youth. A study focused on high schoolers in Michigan saw that they were engaging in underage drinking. Students who reported binge drinking were two times more likely to mix energy drinks with alcohol. Students who illegally drank alcohol without binge drinking were 18.2% likely to engage in this behavior. The statistic for binge drinking high schoolers was 49%.
Drinking alcohol is more dangerous for young Americans than it is for adults. Research indicates that someone is more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder if they start drinking before the age of 15. Besides this, underage drinking can:
- Interfere with brain development
- Lead to school-related issues
- Lead to issues with law enforcement
- Increases chances of physical and sexual assault
- Causes hospitalizations
- May lead to death in the worst-case scenario
Young Americans are more likely to binge drink when they combine alcohol and energy drinks. Thus, this combination is more dangerous than alcohol on its own. The majority of underage students who mixed caffeinated drinks with alcohol in the Michigan study consumed liquor. What makes this worse is that liquor often has a higher alcohol content than something like wine and beer.
Worst-case scenarios can develop quickly in situations like this, leading to fatal drunk driving accidents.
The Deceptive Marketing Behind Energy Drinks and Alcohol
Furthermore, it’s more than speculation that alcohol and energy drinks are deceptive. Particularly, beverages that are marketed as alcohol and energy drinks. Four Loko is an energy drink and alcohol in a tall, colorful can. Their marketing team uses popular rappers, like Riff Raff, along with sexy images to convince consumers it’s fun and hip. What the true intention behind it is to attract a younger audience.
In fact, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said on record that the design and marketing of this product appeal to younger customers. And he’s right. For instance, multiple colleges banned students from drinking Four Loko after several arrests and hospitalizations. Also, states began to ban Four Loko because of the dangers of alcohol and energy drinks. ABC News wrote a piece on how the state of Washington banned the malt beverage after the hospitalization of dozens of college students.
Additionally, both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cracked down on alcoholic energy drinks. In late 2010, these governmental institutions sent out warning letters to the following companies:
- United Brands Co. – Joose and Max
- Charge Beverages Corporation – Core High Gravity, El Jefe, and Core Spiked
- Phusion Products LLC – Four Loko and Four Maxed
- New Century Brewing Company – Moonshot
In these letters, they wrote that the combination of caffeine and alcohol was deceptively safe. Although quite unsafe, they were widely sold across the United States at that time. On top of this, they urged them to take action to protect consumers who lacked an understanding of how alcoholic energy drinks can mask feelings of intoxication.
Phusion Products (aka Four Loko) responded by removing caffeine, guarana, and taurine from the formula. In doing so, it made its products safer for the public. Though, they’re still equivalent to five beers.
Energy Drinks and Alcohol Combinations to Avoid
In short, people should avoid any combination of alcoholic drinks and stimulants. Though, some energy drinks in tandem with alcoholic beverages can leave one worse off than others. For instance, an alcoholic drink with a high level of alcohol will do a lot more damage than one with a lower level. The same can be said about energy drinks that contain high amounts of caffeine and other additives.
So, the lesser of two evils would be a drink that has low levels of alcohol and caffeine. Something like green tea wine might be better than a strong alcoholic energy drink. Though, any drink that has alcohol and caffeine is dangerous. In the meantime, make sure to measure out each glass. The danger of drinks like Four Loko is that they come in a huge can. Consumers drink the entirety of it without realizing they’ve downed the equivalent of five beers or more.
Here are examples of popular mixed drinks to stay away from:
- Irish Coffee
- Vodka and Red Bull
- White Russian
All of these contain high levels of both caffeine and alcohol. On top of that, the sugar in these kinds of drinks can cover up the taste of alcohol. It’s a lot easier to drink beverages that don’t have any bite. If a person feels like they’re drinking soda or juice, they’re probably going to drink a lot more of it.
At the end of the day, the best advice about drinking beverages like this is to stay hydrated. Drink one glass of water per standard drink. That way, it’s easier to stay hydrated and less drunk. Water helps rid the body of toxins. While it’s best to avoid drinking altogether, this can dilute the substances entering the body’s systems to some extent.
Alternatives to Energy Drinks and Alcohol
It’s no surprise that America has a drinking culture. Every movie, song, and show that glorifies American drinking further cements that Americans love alcohol. It’s easy to be a part of the herd and consume drinks like red bull and vodka. A person may rationalize the decision with low calories and an energy boost. Though, societal pressure to drink is the true culprit.
While many opt for a drink with alcohol and energy drinks, try to go with a tasty mocktail instead. A mocktail is a drink that looks and tastes like a cocktail but isn’t. Think virgin piña coladas and virgin daiquiris. There are actually many mocktails out there that can convince the most experienced drinker that you’re imbibing at the bar.
These drinks can boost energy and taste like a cocktail all at the same time:
- Mint Mojito Iced Coffee Mocktail
- Cold Brew Mai Tai Mocktail
- Red Bull and Sparkling Lime Water
- Caffeinated Tea Mocktail
Otherwise, there is a wealth of mocktails without caffeine a bartender will be happy to mix up. A Shirley Temple tastes exactly like a cocktail devoid of the attached danger. Arguably the worst part of going out without drinking is getting asked about it. Although abstaining from drinking is something to be proud of, we’re well aware of societal pressure.
Sana Lake Shows Members the Benefits of Ditching Energy Drinks and Alcohol
There is so much more to life than drinking. Though, it’s tough to see that when you have an alcohol use disorder. Don’t be a part of the millions who have lost their lives to consumption. Contact us now to see the beauty in life without the impairment of alcohol.