I spoke in depth about the health effects related to consuming energy drinks in a previous article entitled: The Ups and Downs of Energy Drinks. I wrote about how energy drinks can definitely give you a boost, but at some point you will come crashing down. And you might perhaps be worse off from where you started.
There has been recent controversy about companies who are fusing energy drinks with alcohol. It has become very popular for energy drinks to be mixed with alcohol and inexpensive as well. Now companies that manufacture these products are marketing to younger consumers that drink energy drinks. The bright packaging and variety of fruity flavors also makes it difficult for people to tell the difference to regular energy drinks. Liquor stores who carry these drinks have reported a 400% increase in sales of these products over the last year!
Phusion Products is the manufacturer of the popular drink Four Loko. Their drink comes in an approximate 24oz can and is 12% (varies) alcohol by volume. This means that one can is almost equal to a six pack of beer and one can is also less than $3! The drink also contains approximately 2-3 cups of coffee. This sounds like such a great value. However, with the nick name “Blackout in a can,” it is hard to imagine that this product does as well as it has. There were reports of 9 Central Washington students being admitted to the hospital that have become ill from consuming this drink. There were reports that the students appeared to be under the influence of the date rape drug. After being tested for drugs, they had no drugs in their systems but had consumed 5 times the legal limit of alcohol! There was also a case on a NJ campus where approximately 2 dozen students became sick from drinking the same type of drink.
The problem with consuming an alcohol beverage that has caffeine is that your body is unable to decipher when to stop consuming alcohol because the caffeine is keeping you up. The typical effect of consuming too much alcohol is for the body to shut down aka blackout. But if you are under the influence of caffeine, this helps to keep you awake, and the effects of the liquor is masked. People are also fond of consuming Redbull and Vodka, which has the same effect.
A 19 year-old man at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia was admitted and appeared to be suffering from a heart attack. Doctors say he was experiencing chest pains, shortness of breath, and he was sweaty. Doctors reported that these types of symptoms are usually related to overdoses from cocaine or speed. The Patient then admitted that he had been consuming a beverage that was mixed with alcohol and caffeine. Other users report that they did not feel inebriated when consuming the beverage. They reported feeling sober and wide awake. This made them want to consume more because they were not feeling the effects of the alcohol.
Research done by Doctor Mary Claire O’Brien of Wake Forest University studied the effects of combining alcohol and caffeine. She found that compared to college students who drink only alcohol, students who drink alcohol mixed with energy drinks are twice as likely to be injured, require medical attention, or ride with an intoxicated driver. These astonishing results and stories nationwide are what have led the FDA to strongly suggest the banning of these products.
State officials in New York, Washington, Utah, Michigan, and Oklahoma have already ejected these products from store shelves. Phusion Products have made a statement that they would remove the caffeine, guarana, and taurine from their drinks.
The manufacturers of these beverages have made numerous statements that when their drink is consumed responsibly it is safe. The irony is that if you are not able to decipher when you are under the influence because the caffeine masks the effect of the liquor, how can these drinks possibly be consumed responsibly?