Alcohol and energy drinks a dangerous combination
“New Year’s Eve will be a time of risky behaviour because people will start partying early and will want to be still celebrating into the night to see the New Year in,” Dr Hambleton said.
“It can lead people to consume excessive amounts of alcohol and excessive amounts of caffeine, both of which can be harmful on their own, but potentially lethal when consumed together.
“The combination reduces the perception of intoxication and allows people to drink for longer periods of time.
“It is a trend that has become popular among crowds at music festivals and many people will try it this holiday period.
“The holiday season is a busy time for emergency departments, which don’t need further casualties lining up due to misadventures from mixing alcohol and energy drinks.”
The potential for harm falls into three main categories:
- The combination of alcohol and highly caffeinated energy drinks can increase the risk of dehydration (leading to diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, headache, increased heart rate, muscle cramp, and a more severe hangover). Warm weather and extended periods of dancing or being in crowds may also contribute to problems;
- The combination of stimulant (caffeine) and depressant (alcohol) sends mixed messages to the nervous system, which can result in cardiovascular problems as well as sleep disturbances;
- The combination of alcohol and energy drinks reduces the feelings/perception of alcohol intoxication, leading to increased alcohol consumption and significantly impaired judgement and decision-making.
Dr Hambleton said that public health advocates remain very concerned that the marketing of energy drinks to young people is similar to the marketing strategies used to sell tobacco and alcohol.
“The AMA will continue to raise these concerns with governments and relevant agencies in 2013,” Dr Hambleton said.
- The NSW Government recently announced a research program (led by Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre), which will further investigate the impacts of alcohol and highly caffeinated energy drinks on perceptions of intoxication and risky drinking behaviours;
- Larger container sizes of highly caffeinated energy drinks (holding up to 4.8 serves, and approx 273 mg caffeine) may lead people to believe that it is okay to consume larger volumes of highly caffeinated energy drinks (in combination with alcohol), which will increase the associated risks;
- Over-consumption has resulted in increased calls to the Poisons Information Line in NSW, with approximately 16.7 per cent of calls related to highly caffeinated energy drinks and alcohol
- Research from the United States has shown that people who consume alcohol and highly caffeinated energy drinks together consume more alcohol more often (than those who don’t combine alcohol and highly caffeinated energy drinks);
- Research from the United States has also shown that those people who consume alcohol and highly caffeinated energy drinks together have a significantly higher prevalence of alcohol related consequences, including alcohol poisoning, physical injury, impaired driving, being a passenger in a vehicle with an impaired driver, and sexual victimisation;
- The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed it to be unsafe to sell premixed versions of alcohol and caffeinated energy drinks. However, this does not address the problem of venues or individuals mixing the drinks themselves.
- The FDA is also currently investigating more than 100 reports of adverse events over the last five years that have a possible connection with consumption of highly caffeinated energy drinks. According to media reports, this includes at least 18 deaths.
31 December 2012
John Flannery 02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761
Kirsty Waterford 02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753
Published: 31 Dec 2012