April is Alcohol Awareness Month. One way teens and young adults can put themselves at great risk for harm is by mixing energy drinks (i.e. Red Bull, Monster) with alcohol. According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD), these very popular beverages are consumed by 31% of 12-17 year olds and 34% of 18-24 year olds.
When consumed, these beverages can lead to a feeling of “wide awake drunk”—in other words, not feeling intoxicated when they are. It may allow for sustained partying without feeling the effects of alcohol, but doubles the risk of injury, drunk driving, and sexual assault. Caffeine does not affect the metabolism of alcohol in the liver and has no effect on breath alcohol concentrations. Drinkers who regularly mix alcohol and energy drinks are three times as likely to binge drink.
In 2015, a study from Dartmouth’s Norris Cancer Center found that teens who mix alcohol and energy drinks were significantly more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder than teens who just drink alcohol.
Energy drinks contain about as much caffeine as a large cup of coffee. They often contain additives like guarana and ginseng which may speed up the central nervous system. There is no regulation on the amount of caffeine in energy drinks, and often the caffeine content isn’t even listed on the can. Too much caffeine may negatively affect teens and young adults.