Energy drinks and alcohol may provide a quick buzz but together they can be a dangerous mixture compared to drinking alcohol alone.
According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and the Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia, young adults drink caffeinated alcoholic beverages (CABs) at levels four times higher than the general public.
“It’s not surprising why it’s appealing to young people,” said Cecile Marczinski,
associate professor in the Department of Psychological Science at Northern Kentucky University, who runs an Alcohol and Energy Drink Research Lab.
“Generally people feel the experience of drinking alcohol as more awarding,” said Marczinski. “They feel more stimulated and less sleepy.”
There are many health risks associated when combining energy drinks with alcohol, according to a range of experts.
“It is known when you put stimulants into alcohol like caffeine you actually want to drink more and you feel less intoxicated,” said Marczinski.
The body does have defense mechanisms to signal that it has had enough, however. The main two are feeling fatigue and the awareness of being drunk, said Zorana Rose, a doctor of naturopathic medicine in Toronto.
The sleepy state that is experienced when consuming alcohol alone tells you to stop drinking but that gets disrupted when you mix a bunch of stimulants in your alcohol.
“The caffeine is counteracting the side effects of the alcohol,” said Rose.
Young adults consume caffeinated alcoholic beverages (CABs) for a variety of reasons. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA), some consume the mixture to get a quicker buzz.
“I don’t feel the effect of alcohol alone or energy drinks alone when I drink them, so as an experiment I combine them and then I get a tingly feeling,” said Jevon Ellis, a Business Management student at Humber.
There are two major categories of CABs in Canada, pre-mixed drinks sold in liquor stores and those that are hand-mixed by consumers.
“There are no pre-mixed drinks in the U.S. since November 2010,” said Marczinski. “I was really surprised to hear that Canada still has them on the market.”
Health Canada in 2011 published its proposed ban of the sale of pre-mixed drinks but they are still available. Rockstar + vodka, which contains caffeine through natural ingredients, such as guarana or yerbe mate, are permitted.
Despite explicit warnings “do not consume with alcohol” printed on some energy drinks, CAB consumption appears to be common and a growing practice, according to CCSA.
“There needs to be public awareness, which works really well,” said Rose.