Jun 08 2011
As somebody who teaches both classroom and online alcohol classes, I have learned from my students their new affinity for mixing alcohol with an energy drink such as Red Bull. A recovering alcoholic who has been sober since before Red Bull and the energy drink craze, I wanted to comprehend how this mixture got so popular.
If You Swallow This, You’ll Swallow Anything
Quick – what is any drink that has alcohol and at least one other ingredient? If you answered cocktail – you are correct. Historically cocktails come from about 1800 when people combined any type of alcohol with bitters, sugar or water.
At the start of the 19th century, there was a joke that cocktails were powerful tools for politicans with the thought that if you could be talked into drinking a cocktail, you would swallow anything. Maybe that’s why I’m quite disenchanted with the current state of politics (I’m not swallowing anything).
Is Mixing Such a Good Idea?
No doubt it’s obvious that today energy drinks are extremely popular, them and vitamin-enhanced water. Call me a hypocrite, but I don’t understand either one of them. I take a multi-vitamin every morning and am perfectly content to drink water out of the sink. I feel quite lucky to live in a modern society that provides practically free healthy drinking water. While I’ve never touched energy drinks I do like caffeinated coffee each morning (and sometimes after dinner).
Other than a floater of whiskey in a cup of joe I had never combined alcohol with an energy beverage. However combining the depressant – alcohol, with the stimulant – energy drink, is the latest craze in alcoholic drinks.
I’m sure these concoctions taste good, but are they safe?
Don’t Get Gored by the Big Red Bull!
For many consuming either an alcoholic beverage or energy drink is safe. Drinking too much of either one has proven to be not just unhealthy, but seriously harmful to your health. Students of my alcohol awareness classes learn this in the first few hours.
The French have many interesting food habits like eating snails. Horse meat can be purchased in the local butcher shop. One thing you can’t get in France – Red Bull! Let me guess what you’re thinking – why on Earth they would ban such a seemingly innocuous drink?
Red Bull was banned after several serious health incidents where this beverage was consumed. It was capped off by the death of an teenage athlete who died shortly after playing basketball and drinking four cans.
Bad Side Effects of Energy Drinks
Scientific research has shown these drinks have effects beyond the energy enhancing traits.. In some people the effects are positive, heightened alertness and improving mental performance. However, if too many energy drinks are imbibed people might experience a “high” from being over-stimulated, but more importantly have harmful common side effects like increasing agitation, anxiety and insomnia.
Energy drinks are also known to cause feelings of nauseousness, irregular heart beat and even seizures.
Mixing Could Make Thing Worse!
Mixing caffeinated beverages with alcohol is nothing new. Cuba Libra is a classic example. But, Red Bull and other “modern-day” energy beverages have three times the caffeine than cola.
One of the effects of alcohol is to change your brain’s ability to make smart choices. It is a fact – alcoholic beverages slow the brain’s ability to function and slows reaction time. A recent study showed that mixing alcohol with a drink with a lot of caffeine gave those consuming the toxic tonic a sense that they were more in control. This side effect could enable those who consume beverages to engage in riskier behaviors than had they just consumed alcohol alone.
In addition those mixing energy drinks and alcoholic beverages tended to consume on average two more drinks and think they still had control. Many students with blood-alcohol levels well above 0.10 said they were “totally in control.” The deceptive sense of sobriety provided by these energy drinks has a serious adverse effect on cognitive ability. Many students later had to take a minor in consumption class to learn that they actually weren’t in control.