Is Your Teen Mixing Alcohol with Energy Drinks?

energydrinksDrinking alcohol and energy drinks together has become very trendy. Although the Food and Drug Administration has banned premixed alcoholic energy drinks, such as Four Loko, bars and restaurants still offer them on their menu and young people still mix them for each other at parties. Teens, college students, and young adults will mix an energy drink, such as Red Bull or Monster, with an alcoholic beverage, such as vodka, gin, or hard cider.

For years, research has shown that mixing alcohol and energy drinks have negative health effects. For example, consuming these drinks can lead to “wide-awake drunkenness,” where the caffeine masks a person’s feeling of drunkenness, but does not decrease their impairment. Consumers feel less drunk than they actually are, which can lead them to feel that they are safe to drive or drink more alcohol. Here are some of the results from research about alcohol energy drinks:

  • Researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine found that students who mixed alcohol and energy drinks had double the risk of: being hurt or injured, requiring medical attention, driving with an intoxicated driver, being taken advantage of sexually, or taking advantage of another sexually.
  • Investigators from Dartmouth’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center found that teens, aged 15-17 years old, who mixed alcohol with energy drinks were four times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder than a teen who had tried alcohol but never mixed it with an energy drink.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that drinkers who consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks are 3 times more likely to binge drink.
  • A RAND Health survey reported that high school drinkers who mix alcohol with energy drinks were more likely to have poor grades, delinquent behavior, substance use-related unsafe driving, public intoxication, and drug use.
  • Research from “Pediatrics in Review” shows that mixing these drinks can cause rapid heartbeat, insomnia, high blood pressure, anxiety and obesity.


Protecting Teens

The best way to protect teenagers from any alcohol and/or drug abuse is still talking to them. Research shows these strategies for parents appear to work best:

  • Repeated conversations about alcohol have a positive impact on teens’ decisions, so parents should continue open, consistent dialogues with their children. Teens need to know the facts, statistics, and the consequences of drugs.
  • Interestingly, parents should know that one research study suggests that focusing on the benefits of staying sober is more effective when talking to teens about not drinking. Some of these benefits include having more money, less stress, and better overall health.
  • Teens are more likely to stay sober if they imagine situations where they might be offered alcohol and develop a response or strategy for abstaining beforehand.

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