Energy Drinks + Alcohol = Danger

Reported July 2010

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- They provide the jolt many young people rely on to get through the day, but energy drinks are also a popular addition to the party at night. One study found 50 percent of college students drink three or more energy drink and alcohol cocktails in a night. But some researchers say it can secretly turn into a dangerous mixture.


 They're a $10 billion industry in the United States. It is the mixer of choice for many young partiers.

"It's by far the most popular -- Red Bull and vodka," bartender Kara Oglanian told Ivanhoe.


Oglanian loves a cocktail that doubles as a pick-me-up.

"When I drink energy drinks my energy gets bumpin," Oglanian explained. "I'm able to do anything almost. Mix that with alcohol and you have like a different sensation. It's a high almost."


So instead of the usual sleepy effect of alcohol, people who drink this concoction feel just the opposite. Leading to a dangerous phenomenon called wide-awake drunk.


"The wide awake drunk phenomenon describes an individual who is impaired by alcohol but is wide awake," Bruce Goldberger, Ph.D., a toxicologist at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, Fla., explained.


In a study just released in the Journal of Addictive Behaviors, toxicologists found people who drink energy drinks mixed with booze are three times more likely to get drunk, and four times more likely to intend to drive drunk, compared to those who stick to alcohol alone.


"So there's an interaction that occurs in the body so these people are more likely to behave in risky ways," Goldberger said.


The caffeine in energy drinks is a stimulant. Alcohol is a depressant. Combine the two and experts in addictive behavior proved it not only increases a person's intoxication level but also decreases their self-awareness.


"What the caffeine does is it creates this sensation or perception with the person that they're less intoxicated, so they think they're okay, but they're not," Dennis Thombs, Ph.D., an addictive behavior expert at the University of Florida, said.


It's sobering information that experts hope will make more people think before they drink.

"I might think twice about doing it," Oglanian said.


In the study, the average BAC or breath alcohol concentration for those who mixed alcohol and energy drinks was .109 -- well above most legal driving limits of .08.


Researchers also found consumers of energy drink cocktails left the bars later at night and drank for longer periods of time.


This report has been produced thanks to a generous grant from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.



Dr. Bruce Goldberger
University of Florida College of Medicine
Gainesville, FL 32608
(352) 265-0680 ext. 72001