The Effects of Alcohol Mixed with Caffeine

Health experts worry that alcoholic energy drinks cloud the judgment of people by making them think that they are not as drunk and causing drinkers to crave the next round more than if they had only been drinking alcohol.

People who add caffeine to their cocktails are at a greater risk of being in an accident, and of making regrettable decisions than those who don’t add caffeine to their alcoholic beverages. Students at the University of Michigan reported two to three times more negative consequences when drinking alcoholic energy drinks, such as having hangovers and passing out. A recent article details more research on the subject.

Popularity for caffeine added alcoholic beverages increased after the first energy drink, like Red Bull, debuted in 1987. Kathleen Miller, a sociologist and researcher at the University of Buffalo, says alcoholic beverages mixed with energy drinks that flow freely at restaurants and bars across the nation have greater risks than premixed versions found in convenience stores. She also said that college students are the focus of most of the research on the possible risks.

Cecile Marczinski, a psychological researcher from Northern Kentucky University, says that feeling tired is an important factor when people decide they’ve had enough alcohol for the night. Marczinski said energy drinks are dangerous additives when drinking alcohol, because they mask intoxication and tiredness. This could make people underestimate just how drunk they are, making it harder to judge when they need to cut themselves off. “Since caffeine lasts for six hours, that extends that time when you feel really stimulated and alert, and that makes you want to drink more,” she said.

A recent experiment by Rebecca McKetin, a researcher at Australian National University, help explain why those who drink alcoholic energy drinks tend to drink more, and for longer. Her research showed that the energy drink, Red Bull, has a priming effect, creating stronger need in the subjects to keep drinking than having a plain cocktail with the same amount of alcohol. Of the 75 subjects in her study, the participants who added Red Bull to their drink were twice as likely to want to continue to drink as the participants who had soda water added to their drinks.

As experts continue to better identify the impacts of alcoholic energy drinks, the effort to make them safer will continue to be explored. Chances are college campuses and state alcohol beverage control boards will be responsible for a majority of the efforts.

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