The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol With Energy Drinks

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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.

Energy drinks mixed with alcohol have a growing fan base, especially among teens and young adults. Learn why mixing alcohol and energy drinks can be dangerous, and even deadly.

What Is Wide-Awake Drunk?

dangers of mixing energy drinks and alcohol
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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.”

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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 dangers.

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.

There’s no shame in getting help. Learn more about how our program works, or speak with a member of our team today.

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Written By:
Ria Health Team
Ria Health’s editorial team is a group of experienced copywriters, researchers, and healthcare professionals dedicated to removing stigma and improving public knowledge around alcohol use disorder. Articles written by the “Ria Team” are collaborative works completed by several members of our writing team, fact-checked and edited to a high standard of empathy and accuracy.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.
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