In yesterday’s blog post, we provided an overview of the entire issue of energy drinks and their perceived benefits and disadvantages.
Here at Foodfacts.com, we have been wondering: what happens when energy drinks are combined with alcohol?
This combination carries a number of dangers:
• Since energy drinks are stimulants and alcohol is a depressant, the combination of effects may be dangerous. The stimulant effects can mask how intoxicated you are and prevent you from realizing how much alcohol you have consumed. Fatigue is one of the ways the body normally tells someone that they’ve had enough to drink.
• The stimulant effect can give the person the impression they aren’t impaired. No matter how alert you feel, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the same as it would be without the energy drink. Once the stimulant effect wears off, the depressant effects of the alcohol will remain and could cause vomiting in your sleep or respiratory depression.
• Both energy drinks and alcohol are very dehydrating (the caffeine in energy drinks is a diuretic). Dehydration can hinder your body’s ability to metabolize alcohol and will increase the toxicity, and therefore the hangover, the next day.
What do the experts think?
The California-based Marin Institute, an alcohol industry watchdog group, has just released the most comprehensive report yet on alcoholic energy drinks.
“The available research suggests that alcoholic energy drinks create a dangerous mix,” the report states. “Yet the alcohol industry markets the beverages with messages that fail to alert users to the potential for misjudging one’s intoxication. Indeed, these messages irresponsibly suggest the beverages will enhance alertness and energy.”
The companies market these products as ways to “party all night.” On two product websites, they say “Move from party to after-party,” “Get your second wind,” and “Who’s up for staying out all night.”
California’s recently changed (August 2007) policy that will tax Alcopops at the distilled spirits rate per gallon ($3.30), rather than the per gallon beer rate ($.20). The policy change is based on the alcohol content of the product. Based on a Marin Institute Study California’s expected benefits include:
1 – a reduction in underage alcopop consumption in the state by 35 percent, resulting in a cost savings of $437 million.
2 – The proposed tax could increase the average price of alcopops by an estimated 25% and generate over $40 million for the state treasury.
The Marin Institute reported that recently, 29 attorneys general (including New York State’s) took a powerful stand against alcoholic energy drinks. In their letter to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the AGs expressed grave concern about how the products are targeting youth, and called upon the agency to enforce federal law that says companies cannot market these beverages as “energy-enhancing”.