How many people do you know who love to order a Red Bull and vodka?
A systematic review of 13 studies on the effects of mixing energy drinks and alcohol showed that those who do sometimes end up hurting themselves.
That’s because the caffeine masks the effects of alcohol just enough that you don’t realize how drunk you are. This, in turn, can lead to unintended injuries.
“Usually when you’re drinking alcohol, you get tired and you go home,” said lead author Audra Roemer of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research in Canada, in a news release. “Energy drinks mask that, so people may underestimate how intoxicated they are, end up staying out later, consume more alcohol, and engage in risky behavior and more hazardous drinking practices.”
For decades, people have said the same thing about cocaine. The two substances often go hand in hand, particularly among hardcore drinkers.
As it turns out, that’s exactly where Roemer got the idea for the study. “Cocaine is obviously a strong stimulant, and I was curious about lower level stimulants that are more socially acceptable,” she said. “I wondered if they were having a similar impact but to a lesser degree.”
Mixing energy drinks with booze has become extremely popular in North America. You can even buy the concoction pre-made at liquor stores.
Of the 13 studies Roemer and colleagues reviewed, three looked at whether “risk-taking” or “sensation seeking tendencies” play a role in injuries that occur while mixing energy drinks and alcohol.
“We know that these are risk factors for alcohol-related injuries, and some research has suggested that people who have these traits might prefer the awake-drunk states that you get from mixing alcohol and energy drinks,” Roemer said. “This could be a population that’s at even higher risk for injuries.”
Research also has shown that mixing energy drinks with alcohol can lead to heart palpitations, sleep problems, irritability and tremors, according to The Daily Mail.
Roemer said there needs to be more research examining the impact of mixing energy drinks and alcohol. Of the 13 studies analyzed in her paper, 10 “showed evidence of a link between the use of alcohol mixed with energy drinks and an increased risk of injury compared to drinking alcohol only.” The study classified injuries as unintentional, such as falls or motor vehicle accidents, or those of intention, such as fights or other physical violence.
Roemer plans to have two more papers published on this topic. “We’re currently running a controlled emergency department study to look at the relationship a little more clearly,” she explained. “Hopefully, that will bring more answers. The research we’ve done so far points to an increased risk of injuries with the use of alcohol mixed with energy drinks that could be a serious public health concern. Our hope is to conduct and facilitate future research to identify limitations and get a closer look at the topic to see what’s really going on.”
A professional journalist nearly 30 years, David Heitz started his career at the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa before moving to Los Angeles. He led the Glendale News-Press to best small daily newspaper in the state (CNPA) as managing editor and also worked as executive news editor of the Press-Telegram. He worked briefly as deputy news editor of the Detroit News before returning to the Quad-Cities, where he has worked as a freelance medical writer since 2012 for several national websites. He recently purchased his childhood home and says he truly is “living the dream.”