You're Still Drunk, Dummy

Researchers compile evidence of public health risk posed by caffeinated alcoholic beverages

(RxWiki News) As the FDA and state governments are cracking down on the sale of caffeinated alcoholic beverages, a recent article outlines the extent of the public health problem posed by such beverages.

Even though some manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages have taken their products off the market, young people still seem to be combining alcohol and energy drinks at similar rates, said lead author Jonathan Howland, Ph.D., of the Department of Community Health Sciences and Department of Emergency Medicine at Boston Univeristy.

Very little research has been conducted on the risks posed by caffeinated alcoholic beverages, even though there is reason for concern that these beverages may increase alcohol-related risks.

In light of this lack of research, as well as high levels of caffeinated alcoholic beverage consumption, Howland and colleagues compiled 44 different references that show the current understanding of the effects of alcohol combined with stimulants. These references come from a variety of sources including newspapers, magazines, and scientific journals.

According to one study, bar-goers who drank caffeinated alcoholic beverages were three times more likely than those who drank alcohol without caffeine to leave the bar highly intoxicated. Furthermore, those who drank alcohol and caffeine were much more likely to try to drive after leaving the bar.

Another notable study found that students who drank caffeinated alcoholic beverages were about twice as likely of becoming victims of, or committing sexual assault, riding in a car with an intoxicated driver, having an alcohol-related accident, or needing medical treatment.

The problem of caffeinated alcoholic beverage consumption may be a result of the popularity of energy drinks. Many energy drink brands include multiple stimulant ingredients, including caffeine, guarana, taurine, and sugar derivatives. In 2008, at least 130 caffeinated beverages had more than the amount of caffeine allowed by the FDA (0.02 percent).

With the misconception that caffeine counteracts the effects of alcohol and allows one to party for much longer, young people started to combine energy drinks with alcohol at high rates. According to a survey conducted in 2006, about 24 percent of college students had mixed energy drinks with alcohol in the month previous to the survey.

The evidence compiled by Howland and colleagues is a starting point for future research. As of now, there has not been much in-depth investigation into the risks posed by caffeinated alcoholic beverages. 

The article was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Review Date: 
February 22, 2011