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Need-to-know information when mixing alcohol with energy drinks

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The holidays are a time to reflect on life’s events and to be thankful for the good in our lives. It is a time to throw parties, drink, and have a good time. Being responsible when drinking can never be emphasized enough. This is especially true when mixing certain cocktails. One mixture that has received some notoriety from health experts is mixing of alcohol and energy drinks.

Drinking alcohol in excess is a beast. It is responsible for more than 79,000 deaths in the United States every year. Energy drinks (Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar, etc.) are popular with younger markets and consumed regularly by at least 31% of 12-17-year-olds and 34% of 18-24-year-olds. An estimated 28% of college-aged drinkers drink alcohol and energy drink mixtures in any given month.

Energy drinks are commonly used as a mixer for hard liquor, such as Red Bull and Vodka. The depressant properties of alcohol and stimulating effects of caffeine in energy drinks can be a dangerous combination. Stimulants are so powerful they can worsen a person’s intoxicated state: caffeine can ‘cover up’ the depressant side effects of alcohol.

Along with a caffeine ‘kick’ it is more likely an individual will drink more than his or her limit. The stimulating effects of caffeine makes individuals believe they are more sober than they really are, so they continue to drink more. Once the stimulant’s effects have worn off, the intoxicating effects will prevail. Both alcohol and caffeine can be addicting.

Because caffeine reduces the lethargy felt when intoxicated, people may misjudge what they are capable of doing. Unfortunately, energy drinks do not minimize the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) in a person’s system. The alcohol-energy drink phenomenon has become increasingly common that experts have named it ‘wide awake drunk.’

Alcohol-energy drink consumers are

* 3 times more likely to leave a bar intoxicated
* 4 times more likely to attempt driving drunk
* 3 times more likely to binge drink

Both alcohol and energy drinks are diuretic substances, they can dehydrate you. It is also important to state that people who use energy drinks as mixers are more likely to suffer from conditions such as agitation, tremors, heart palpitations, and insomnia. Contrary to popular belief, caffeine and alcohol DO NOT cancel each other out.

You can still have a good time, but always do so responsibly. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 recommends consuming alcohol in moderation: 2 drinks/day for men and up to 1 drink/day for women. Always consult with a trusted health professional if unsure about anything.

As we welcome 2014, let’s celebrate and have fun but be sure to look out for each other at all times.

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