Why are energy drinks dangerous when combined with alcohol?

Alexandra Warren
23 January 2012

Maintaining a social life while balancing work, school and extra-curricular activities can be exhausting for young adults. For some young partygoers, mixing energy drinks with alcohol is becoming increasingly popular. For example, “Jagerbombs”, a cocktail that consists of a drop shot of Jagermeister into a glass of energy drink, usually Red Bull, is being sold in bars worldwide.

But, have you ever stopped to think about how the combination of energy drinks and alcohol actually affects the body?

Energy drinks are marketed towards young males and are said to increase endurance, performance, attention and weight loss. Caffeine is generally the main ingredient found in these drinks. Caffeine is a psychoactive (mind and mood altering) stimulant that increases the heart rate, improves mental alertness and locomotion, and reduces drowsiness by stimulating the central nervous system. Long-term health effects of excessive caffeine consumption include increased anxiety, nervousness, muscle twitching, insomnia, headaches, peptic ulcers and heart palpitations.

Did you know? An energy drink contains between 50 mg to 505 mg of caffeine. A six ounce cup of coffee, however, contains between 77 mg to 150mg of caffeine.

Alcohol, by contrast, is a psychoactive depressant. It is absorbed into the blood stream, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, while impairing motor control and memory.

The combination of a stimulant and a depressant can be harmful to your health because it masks feelings of intoxication. This results in a greater consumption of alcohol that can have severe consequences, such as alcohol poisoning. Mixing alcohol and caffeine may result in shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat and extreme dehydration, which can have long term health effects.

Did you know? As of May 21, 2010, Health Canada put a ban on the sale of pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks.

The energy drink industry is rapidly expanding – in 2006, more than 500 new energy drink brands were launched. While drinking a Red Bull in North America may not seem like a big deal because they are readily available and commonly consumed, some countries have taken steps to restrict access to, or even prohibit the sale of, energy drinks.

Next time you go out with your friends, think twice about what you are putting into your body.

Learn More!

Energy drinks & alcohol

Article first published March 24, 2011.

Alexandra Warren

Hello all! I am a third year General Science and Commerce student studying at the University of British Columbia. Although I do enjoy a bit of chemistry now and then, I am specializing in Ecology and Oceanography. When I am not cramming for my exams, I like to do yoga, go rock climbing, swimming, surfing, and, whenever I can, go cliff jumping! I love being outdoors and having adventures in our cool world that is full of amazing science.

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