Mixing of energy drinks, alcohol, a concern for Lincoln Students

MonsterBy Timothy Alston and Lorel Durant

When Lincoln University senior Tiffaney Knight goes out with friends, she and many others sometimes drink a mixture of alcohol and energy drinks

“When you usually go to the bar, some of the drinks contain energy drinks,” she said. “When you are getting intoxicated, it gives you an extra boost.”

But many other Lincoln students said they aren’t big fans of mixing energy drinks and alcohol, saying they’ve heard enough about how unhealthy the combination can be.

Still, some remain open to trying it.

Jabari Hunt, a Lincoln University student, said he doesn’t like energy drinks because they’re overpriced and unhealthy. “But if a mixture (of energy drink and alcohol) was available, I would be interested,” Hunt said.

The latest report about the dangers of mixing energy drinks and alcohol came earlier this month from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which found that the combination may cause serious harm, especially to adolescents. The group advises doctors to talk with teenage patients about the dangers of energy drinks, both alone and when they are mixed with alcohol.

Mixing energy drinks with alcohol increases the risks because the energy drink can mask the feel of the alcohol, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

It cites one study in which bar patrons who consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks were three times more likely to leave a bar drunk and were four times more likely to get behind the wheel while drunk.

“I feel like people who mix alcohol and energy drinks are just confused and want to harm themselves,” said junior Alileah Alexander.

“Alcohol is a downer, and energy drinks are the opposite,” Alexander said. “It’s like a fast-forward and rewind button being pressed over and over again.”

“I rarely drink energy drinks,” said Jordan Denson, a tutor in the Learning Resource Center. “I’ve tried the drinks mixed with caffeine, and it’s awful because it’s an upper and a downer. Not the best combo. You would have to pay me to do it again.”

Other students said they stay away from energy drinks mixed with alcohol because they have seen what it can do to other people

“Some of the effects I have witnessed were slurred speech, stumbling, and much more,” said Theresa Short, a senior.

Energy drinks contain about 80 milligrams to more than 500 milligrams of caffeine, far more than the 100 milligrams of caffeine in a 5-ounce cup of coffee or the 50 milligrams in a 12-ounce cola, according to the federal health agency.

The agency also said that certain additives in energy drinks can compound caffeine’s stimulant effects.

The American Beverage Association, a trade group, disputed the findings of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ study, saying energy drinks are not dangerous.

“Most mainstream energy drinks contain only about half the amount of caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee,” the association said in a statement.

The association said it encourages beverage producers to display the caffeine content on their containers.

“Let’s stick with the facts, rather than perpetuating sensational untruths which attempt to blur the line between energy drinks and alcoholic beverages,” the association said.

Caffeine can cause a variety of health issues in teenagers, the pediatrics group said, including heart problems, anxiety, insomnia, digestive problems and dehydration.

According to the federal agency, the number of emergency-department visits involving energy drinks has doubled in recent years, from 10,068 visits in 2007 to 20,783 visits in 2011.

Lincoln junior Kaneesha Black said she isn’t interested in trying energy drinks, either with or without alcohol.

“I don’t drink energy drinks because I don’t see the point,” Black said. “I don’t mix either because I don’t want to get alcohol poisoning.”

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