Mixing alcohol with caffeine is not a new phenomenon; people have been mixing rum and whiskey or liquors with coffee for years – especially alcoholics readying themselves for the day ahead. Over the last decade the practice of mixing alcohol with highly caffeinated energy drinks has become increasingly popular among teenagers and young adults, which has lead to a public health crisis.
The combination of the two drugs makes the drinker feel less inebriated than they actually are, prompting the user to engage in risky behavior and make poor decisions like driving under the influence, TIME Magazine reports. A new study has found that the potential negative consequences of mixing alcohol with energy drinks doesn’t only carry with it a personal risk, but a public health one as well.
“When people mix energy drinks with alcohol, people drink more than they would if they had just consumed alcohol, which is associated with a cascade of problems,” says paper author Cecile Marczinski, associate professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University.
Mixing caffeine with alcohol gives the user a false sense of control, giving them the feeling of coordination and balance. Drinkers believe they are not that drunk, Marczinski says, leading them to drive under the influence which is the major public health concern. A number of teenagers have ended up in emergency rooms because they felt like they could drink more than they actually could, some have even experienced brain damage from mixing alcohol and energy drinks.
While the federal government has tried to crack down on the problem by banning the production of alcohol infused energy drinks, teenagers and young adults can mix Red Bull and alcohol at home or order such a beverage at the local bar.
In Australia, certain parts of the country have banned the sale of energy drinks at bars after midnight, according to the article. “You can have really dramatic solutions or minor steps in the right direction,” Marczinski says.
The findings were published in the journal Advances in Nutrition.