Mixing Energy Drinks And Alcohol Is A Dangerous Cocktail: You Might Find Yourself “Wide Awake Drunk”

collection of many energy drinks - mixing energy drinks concept
English: collection of many energy drinks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you drink energy drinks?

It is a simple question. Many people really enjoy energy drinks; there are those who do not like the taste of coffee so they get their caffeine boost with either caffeinated sodas or energy drinks. We often think of energy drinks as something new, but the truth is that historically energy drinks have been available dating back to the 1920s in the United Kingdom. In the United States a drink called Dr. Enuf was first introduced in 1949, it is still sold today in the United States. Red Bull’s roots date back to 1976 in Thailand; however, the company as we know it was launched  in Austria around 1984, it made its way to the United States around 1997.

Energy drinks are popular. It is reported that Red Bull is the most popular particularly among young adult men who use the drink to stay awake in school or to stay awake to complete their studies. Young adults also report using the drink to stay awake at work; not unlike the way many utilize coffee.

Researchers look at consuming energy drinks and alcohol in the same day…

This week a new research article was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health: “Energy Drink and Alcohol: Links to Alcohol Behaviors and Consequences Across 56 Days.”

The study was conducted by Megan E. Patrick, Ph.D. at the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Jennifer, L. Maggs, Ph.D. Department of Human Development and Family Studies and Prevention Research Center, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania.

Study’s parameters…

  • Researchers analyzed data from 652 college students; however, the study started with 744, but 92 did not complete the study
  • The data was collected over the course of four college semesters
  • Students were asked the question during four two week periods how many energy drinks they consumed on the previous Friday
  • Students were also asked how many alcoholic drinks they consumed with energy drinks
  • Students were also questioned as to whether or not they got drunk and/or suffered any negative consequences such as a hangover or got into trouble

Study’s findings…

According to Medical News Today the researchers “found that college students tended to drink more heavily and become more intoxicated on days they use both energy drinks and alcohol, compared to days they only used alcohol.”

In the press release issued by the University of Michigan Dr. Patrick offers the following observation:

“Our findings suggest that the use of energy drinks and alcohol together may lead to heavier drinking and more serious alcohol-related problems. As energy drinks become more and more popular, we should think about prevention strategies for reducing the negative consequences of using energy drinks and of combining energy drinks with alcohol.”

The bottom line seems to be that consuming energy drinks when drinking alcohol can result it what in referred to as “wide awake drunk,” as the caffeine is thought to weaken some of the side effects of alcohol.

Recovery and cravings…

Alcoholics often consume a lot of coffee and sweets. Here at Cottonwood Tucson, we pay attention to the power and frequency of cravings for food and/or mood-altering substances can be influenced by how one eats. Patients learn that an inconsistent or imbalanced diet can create disregulation in all of the previously mentioned neurotransmitters. Our clinicians stress that a poor diet can also create blood sugar fluctuations that affect energy and concentration and increase the desire for sugar and caffeine – both of which can fuel anxiety and trigger cravings to use alcohol and drugs.

Patients learn that, in some newly recovering alcoholics, abstinence from alcohol can lead to increased desire for sugar. Sometimes this desire is subtle and shows up as a craving for fruit, fruit juice or sugary beverages. Of course fruit is healthy, but it is still sugar and, for optimal mood, it needs to be taken in appropriate quantities. Caffeine, too, can become a crutch to the newly recovering addict/alcoholic. A stimulant, caffeine feels like fuel in the body, but this effect can lead to the skipping of meals and increased desire for more sugar. We teach patients that the use of caffeine in the morning can also result in a craving for more caffeine and the impulse to overeat later in the day. Our patients learn that eating often and including the right amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats will help the management of cravings, for both food and mood-altering chemicals.

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