The students were drinking the caffeinated malt liquor beverage Four Loko.
ABC News reports:
"The makers of Four Loko ... point out the partygoers may have been drinking other types of alcohol. Washington is one of several states considering outlawing high-alcohol energy drinks while the Food and Drug Administration reviews their safety."
Alcoholic energy drinks have already been banned in at least four states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also issued warning letters to four manufacturers, stating that caffeine is an "unsafe food additive" when mixed with alcohol.
Major brands of the caffeinated alcohol drinks are expected to be off store shelves by mid-December, a move that has many critics stating the FDA has gone too far.
But have they?
Health Risks of Alcoholic Energy Drinks
Alcoholic energy drinks have become popular not only in bars and nightclubs but also on college campuses. They can either be mixed at a bar (combining a regular energy drink with alcohol) or purchased pre-made under brand names like "Four Loko."
These drinks are proving to be dangerous, perhaps even more so than regular drinks, because the caffeine provides an energy boost that can lead to, as the FDA put it, "wide-awake drunk."
Not being able to fully feel the depressing effects of the alcohol, people who drink alcoholic energy drinks may be more likely to suffer from alcohol poisoning, be involved in car accidents or commit assaults.
In fact, mixing alcohol with energy drinks doubles your risk of being harmed compared with drinking just alcohol, according to researchers from Wake Forest University in North Carolina.
After surveying more than 4,000 U.S. students, the researchers found that compared with students who did not drink "energy drink cocktails," those who did were twice as likely to:
- Get injured
- Require medical attention
- Travel with a drunk driver
- Take sexual advantage of someone
- Be taken advantage of sexually
Quite simply, the caffeine masks the feeling that you're drunk, even though your motor skills, visual reaction times and judgment are still impaired. This can lead you to not only engage in behaviors you should not be doing while intoxicated, but also allows you to drink more than you would ordinarily.
Researchers found that students who drank energy drink cocktails drank nearly 40 percent more than other students, and had twice as many episodes of "weekly drunkenness."
Energy Drink Cocktails Can Even be Deadly
There is a major problem that occurs when you mix a powerful stimulant (an energy drink) with a powerful depressant (alcohol): some people's bodies simply can't take it.
The combination can, in fact, cause cardiopulmonary or heart failure, which can be deadly. Countries like France and Denmark have already banned sales of Red Bull following several reported deaths of people who mixed it with alcohol.
Even on their own these caffeine-loaded beverages may cause your blood to become sticky, a pre-cursor to cardiovascular problems such as stroke.
One hour after drinking the popular energy drink Red Bull, researchers found your blood system becomes abnormal, as might be expected from a patient with cardiovascular disease.
Further, a study in the journal Addictive Behaviors found that people who drank alcoholic energy drinks were at a 3-fold increased risk of leaving a bar highly intoxicated, as well as a 4-fold increased risk of intending to drive upon leaving the bar -- a move that could easily be deadly for that person as well as others -- compared to people who drank alcohol only.
You Don't Need Energy Drinks to Get Energized
If you're an energy-drink junkie, it is important to make a commitment to give up this habit.
Some energy drinks contain the equivalent caffeine of 14 cans of Coca-Cola!
It is very possible to suffer from caffeine intoxication when you drink caffeine at this level, which includes symptoms that mimic those of anxiety and other mood disorders, such as:
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Psychomotor agitation (restlessness and pacing)
- In rare cases: death
Needless to say, when you drink large amounts of caffeine, or even an amount similar to that of drinking a cup or three of coffee, when the effect wears off you'll also start feeling lethargic and will likely crave another can (or cup) to boost your energy once again.
As many of you likely know, it can become a vicious cycle of jolting and crashing.
It is fairly self-evident that children should never consume energy drinks, but due to the detrimental health impact of their contents, it would definitely be wise to avoid energy drinks if you:
- Are pregnant or lactating
- Are sensitive to caffeine
- Suffer from anxiety
- Suffer from high stress
- Suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome
- Have high blood pressure
- Are predisposed to cardiovascular disease
- Have any kind of blood clotting disorder
Anyway, in reality caffeine does not create real energy or alleviate tiredness. It is only a strong stimulant that provides a sudden, temporary jolt to your system, hence the feeling of alertness. For a real health boost, you'll want to focus on the lifestyle habits that will raise your energy level for many hours, and include:
- Eating right for your nutritional type
- Releasing emotional stress and negativity with the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
- Sleeping when you're tired
Really, when you read through all the risks, does it still sound like fun to toast your friends with an energy drink cocktail? I should think not.
While I don't recommend drinking alcohol at all, if you do choose to at least turn down any caffeinated versions for the sake of your health, and use these tips to increase your energy levels naturally, without a dangerous dose of caffeine.