Last Updated on March 26, 2021
What started with the release of Red Bull in the late 1990s has now become a multibillion-dollar industry. Energy drinks offer a quick pick-me-up that many of us can’t get enough of. One popular trend is mixing alcohol with these highly caffeinated energy drinks. This combination masks the feeling of being drunk, allowing people to stay up for hours and continue to drink.
What Is Wide-Awake Drunk?
An energy drink contains high levels of caffeine and other ingredients, including lots of sugar and herbal stimulants. While these beverages are promoted as a safe way to boost physical and mental energy, mixing energy drinks with alcohol is another matter.
Energy drinks act as a stimulant, while alcohol is a depressant. Usually, when drinking alcohol, most people eventually get tired and go home. However, the caffeine of energy drinks masks the depressant effects of alcohol. When drinkers combine the two, they feel more alert and less sleepy than they would otherwise.
Some people mistakenly believe that the caffeine in energy drinks counteracts alcohol. But while it may prevent you from feeling the full effects of drunkenness, your judgment, reaction time, and motor skills are still impaired—a phenomenon known as “wide-awake drunk.”
Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks
Energy drink companies insist that their beverages are safe and effective at enhancing mental and physical alertness. However, these drinks are known to increase heart rates and blood pressure, and are linked to anxiety issues and insomnia. Adding alcohol to the mix only increases these dangers2.
When alcohol is mixed with an energy drink, the stimulant and depressant effects send mixed messages to your brain and nervous system. You may underestimate how intoxicated you are, thus staying out later, drinking more, and becoming more impaired than you realize.
The dramatic intoxication produced by this mixture greatly increases your risk of alcohol-attributed harms, such as:
- Risky behaviors: The more intoxicated you are, the more likely you’ll be to engage in dangerous behaviors, such as drunk driving, fights, and unprotected sex.
- Hazardous drinking practices: Those who consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks are more awake and thus more likely to binge drink, which can lead to alcohol poisoning.
- Worse hangovers: Alcohol and caffeine both dehydrate the body, potentially leading to a more unpleasant hangover experience.
- Dangerous health risks: Alcohol mixed with energy drinks increases your risk of falls and accidents. It can also increase your heart rate and blood pressure, leading to heart palpitations or arrhythmia.
- Increased risk of addiction in young people: Young adults and teens who drink these mixtures trigger a brain response similar to that of cocaine, which can eventually change the brain’s chemistry and contribute to an alcohol use disorder.
Are You Drinking Too Much?
Whether it’s partying with energy drinks and alcohol, or drinking to help you feel better, excessive alcohol consumption can be dangerous to your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. If you need help quitting or cutting back, Ria Health is here. We offer flexible, online support wherever and whenever you need it. We work with your goals, and customize a plan to your unique needs.