Overheard On Campus: What makes mixing alcohol with energy drinks so dangerous?

Contributed by Jim Matthews, M. Ed.

At first glance, alcohol mixed with energy drinks seems to be the perfect answer to a night of “partying.”  However, the current trend of mixing vodka, Jagermeister, or other alcoholic beverages with an energy drink poses numerous risks.  Energy drinks are heavily caffeinated and spiked with additional stimulants.  When mixed with liquor, the energy drink mixer helps counter the depressive effects of alcohol, but even though the drinker may feel more alert, more coordinated, and generally more sober, reflexes and motor skills are just as impaired as people drinking regular cocktails.

Photo credit: MyStudentBody.com

Not surprisingly, research indicates that people who are not aware of how intoxicated they are tend to drink more alcohol. This lack of awareness puts the drinker at greater risk for alcohol poisoning and taking greater risks.  In a survey of 4,271 students from 10 U.S. universities, researchers found that those who mixed caffeine and alcohol had almost double the risk of being taken advantage of sexually as compared to those who did not drink that type of alcoholic drink.  Additionally, in a typical drinking session, they drank up to 36% more than the other students, and also reported twice as many episodes of weekly drunkenness.

The immediate risks of significant increases in consumption and the resulting impairment are multiplied by the impact on the overall health of the drinker. Consuming combinations of energy drinks with alcohol can lead to respiration problems, cardiovascular risks, shortness of breath, dizziness, disorientation and rapid heartbeat.

You may be able to dance all night when tipping back some vodka and Red Bull, but too much of a good thing could be extremely dangerous.

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