With the opposite effects of alcohol and energy drinks, it seems only logical that your best bet to keep drinking would be to down a bit of caffeine- but that’s not how it works. An alcohol caffeine mix leaves you vulnerable to risky choices, alcohol poisoning, and addiction even in a person usually capable of drinking either alcohol and energy drinks in moderation. But why?
Energy Drinks Mask Alcohol’s Effects
Alcohol is a depressant, dulling the nervous system, depressing motor control, and decreasing impulse control, and no matter what you take, that doesn’t stop. Caffeine acts as a stimulant and reduces the sedative effects of alcohol, removing the sleepiness of being drunk. It can also increase focus and lead the user to believe they aren’t as drunk as they are, inducing a quirk known as being a ‘wide awake drunk.’ When someone is drunk and has caffeine in their system they believe they are capable of rational decision making due to the lack of a sleepy fog.
Energy Drinks Make You Drink More
By mixing energy drinks and alcohol, the body no longer gauges drunkenness as it would before. When you can’t see your limit, it’s hard to tell if you’re getting close to crossing it. Studies have proven that this leads to an increase in use. A University of Michigan study showed that people “drink more heavily and become more intoxicated on days they used both energy drinks and alcohol, compared to days they only used alcohol,” and stated conclusively that by mixing drinks, there was a “higher number of drinks consumed and higher levels of drunkenness.”
The Side Effects are far Worse
A hangover from alcohol is bad enough but an alcohol-caffeine hangover is much worse. In fact, studies have proven that the side effects during and after drinking alcohol were significantly increased, “even after controlling for how much alcohol they drank.” The same amount of alcohol with and without an energy drink is a very different story when it comes to nausea, headaches, dizziness, and worse side effects. Further, people who consumed energy drinks and alcohol were “several times more likely to binge drink, get in fights and sustain alcohol-related injuries than those who did not.” NPR even reported that people combining alcohol with energy drinks were more than four times more likely to want to drive themselves home!
It’s More Addictive and Harder to Control Use
Few people mix energy drinks and shots to abuse their ability to get drunker, but people still overuse alcohol significantly when energy drinks are mixed in. The CDC states that binge drinking is 3 times more likely for those who drank alcohol and energy drinks together which is an indicator of addictive behavior or the beginning of habit-forming. A statement by Dr. Patrick, author of a major study on the issue, confirmed the link, agreeing that mixing alcohol with caffeine can “lead to heavier drinking and more serious alcohol-related problems.” The addictive and dangerous traits of such a mixture mean that those currently mixing the two likely will be incapable of ceasing on their own without extensive therapeutic treatment (especially those who started younger) and outpatient care often isn’t enough. Aaron White, an expert on alcohol abuse stated the cause of use is that people “are driven to seek out new experiences push the limits in various ways. Energy drinks fit into that.”
Inpatient care is often recommended if not necessary to help those afflicted by severe addiction caused by combining alcohol and energy drinks in order to separate them from the external influences and access to either drink. It’s hard to see addiction on the same level as other severe and extreme symptoms, but nothing is more dangerous to you, your job, and your social life than alcoholism left untreated, especially that which is caused by abusing energy drinks alongside alcohol.
Every new study shows more and more just how dangerous an alcohol-energy drink mix is for all age groups in how they mask use, cause overuse, and increase risk, so it’s no surprise there are prevention and care programs increasing in numbers nationwide.