What Are the Dangers of Energy Drinks and Alcohol?

Combining alcohol, such as vodka, and energy drinks isn't a strategy for optimum health. This combination can increase your risk for both adverse physical effects and participating in risky behaviors compared to drinking alcohol alone. To limit these risks, avoid mixing these heavily caffeinated beverages and alcohol, especially if you're a young person.

Energy drinks and bottles of alcohol on a lounge table. (Image: Robin Marchant/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

Amount of Alcohol Consumed

Drinking a mix of alcohol and energy drinks tends to lead to drinking more alcoholic beverages, spending more time drinking and an increased blood alcohol level compared to drinking alcohol alone, according to a study published in the "Journal of Adolescent Health" in 2013. The caffeine in energy drinks helps mask the depressant effects of the alcohol, making it more likely the drinker will be wide-awake when drunk and less likely to pass out and stop drinking. This makes alcohol poisoning more likely.

Negative Effects Masked

Although people who mix energy drinks and alcohol may feel fewer symptoms from excessive alcohol consumption, such as headaches, loss of coordination, dry mouth and headache, the caffeine in the energy drink is just masking the effects of the alcohol, according to a study published in "Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research" in April 2006. The energy drinks don't actually lower your blood alcohol level or reduce the effects of alcohol on your coordination or reaction time; you just feel like they have. Another study, published in "Human Psychopharmacology" in August 2009, found that the mix of alcohol and energy drinks decreased performance on tests measuring cognitive function.

Some Consequences Intensified

You may be more likely to experience more consequences from drinking alcohol if you mix it with energy drinks. Potential effects include a more severe hangover, headaches, diarrhea, vomiting, increased heart rate, fatigue, muscle cramps, heart palpitations, disturbed sleep and impaired judgment, according to an article published in "Australian Family Physician" in March 2011.

Risky Behavior

Mixing alcohol and energy drinks increases the likelihood that you will engage in risky behaviors or be a victim of violent behaviors, according to a study published in "Academic Emergency Medicine" in May 2008. People who drink caffeinated cocktails are more likely to ride with someone who is drunk, be sexually assaulted or need emergency medical treatment than those who drink the same amount of alcoholic beverages without caffeine.

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