Friday, December 24, 2010

Alcoholic Energy Drinks Causing Party Foul

Recently I read an article titled " SAFE DRINKING: Liquor and energy drinks: What's the problem?" published in the Las Vegas Review Journal. 

When trying to find pictures for this blog, I googled Four Loko, a caffinated alcoholic drink with 12 percent alcohol that has been banned, I came across some disturbing photos of people who were under the influence of the drink.

I have since summarized the article, shown below.

On Nov. 17, the Food and Drug Administration warned that caffeine added to alcohol is an "unsafe food additive. There is evidence that the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in these products pose a public health concern."

Prior to this announcement, those who consumed these drinks were involved in fatal and near fatal incidents.  

One event included the hospitalization, and near death, of 4 college students from Central Washington University who were admitted with symptoms of a drug overdose were later found to have been drinking Four Loko.

In another incident, a 20-year-old man in Florida, Jason Keiran, reportedly shot and killed himself after drinking three 23.5-oz. cans of Four Loko. His parents are now suing Phusion Projects, which manufactures the malt beverage, for wrongful death of the Florida State sophomore.


Many people know that drinking is a typical part of college life, however it is thought that these alcoholic energy drinks may be causing students to drink more alcohol than non-caffeinated alcoholic beverages.

Red Bull and vokda, for example, is a popular choice for many college students. A Wake Forest University study that polled 4,000 students reported that 24 percent mixed alcohol with energy drinks. When energy drinks were consumed with alcohol, students also drank more, according to the study: 5.8 drinks with an energy drink vs. 4.5 without an energy drink.


It's the mixture of a stimulant in the energy drink and the depressant in the alcohol, says Joanna Gorman, a registered dietitian with University Medical Center of Southern Nevada.

  • "When you combine the caffeine with alcohol there is a delayed feeling of euphoria," she says. "By the time the caffeine wears off, you may have ingested more alcohol than you can handle. The caffeine masks the effects of the alcohol. By the time it wears off, people are more intoxicated, so they don't realize it."
  • Because caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant, you have two systems fighting each other.
  • "People can get alcohol intoxication because they have drank more alcohol than the body can metabolize. That's where you get alcohol poisoning and people end up in the hospital, and they're in danger of dying," says Gorman.

Students in the Wake Forest University study who consumed alcohol with energy drinks were also found to have put themselves in dangerous situations more often:
  • They were twice as likely to be hurt or injured, ride with an intoxicated driver, require medical attention, be taken advantage of sexually or take advantage of someone sexually, the study found.

The University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins performed a study in which researchers examined the energy drink consumption and alcohol-drinking habits of 1,097 students in their fourth-year of college.
  • Ten percent of the students were found to be high-frequency energy drinkers, meaning they consumed an energy drink at least 52 days per year, some people as much as one per day.
  • Half of the students were "low frequency" drinkers; they drank less than 52 energy drinks per year.
  • The rest did not consume any energy drinks.
  • Compared to the low-frequency group, those who drank more energy drinks drank more alcohol and more often--142 days versus 103 days in the past year and 6.2 drinks a day versus 4.6 drinks.


Having a regular energy drink, without alcohol, on occasion is fine and not going to cause a lot of problems, Gorman says.

Melody Vicari, a registered dietitian at Mountain View Hospital, says people are turning to energy drinks when they should be looking at their daily habits when confronted with a lack of energy.

"I feel like people are trying to get extra energy from these drinks, but if they actually had a well-balanced diet and exercised, they'd have enough energy and wouldn't have to use a drink," she says.

She adds that there's a reason you hear stories of people going to McDonald's to eat often and then feeling sluggish.

She says she heard a story of a woman who consumed five energy drinks in one day and passed away from high blood pressure due to all the caffeine in the drink.

How much is too much?

 The caffeine content in one energy drink ranges from 70 to 200 milligrams vs the caffeine in a cup of coffee ranges from 40 to 150 milligrams.

"Experts say that more than 400 milligrams can make people more nervous and irritable. The heart rhythms can speed up and you will have rapid heart beats." People can also have problems sleeping at night if they consume too much caffeine.

There's not one set recommendation on the daily limit of caffeine other than the above 400 milligrams, Gorman notes, because everyone responds differently to the stimulant.

SAFE DRINKING: Liquor and energy drinks: What's the problem?
Stimulant effect may lead to increased alcohol consumption

No comments:

Post a Comment