Why You Should Think Twice Before Mixing Alcohol And Energy Drinks

As it turns out, mixing alcohol and energy drinks may be worse than you think. Although it might seem like a good idea, it's actually quite dangerous (via Self). If you remember the Four Loko controversy in the early 2000s, you know that the caffeinated alcoholic beverage was temporarily banned in several states after sales of the drink led to an increase in hospitalizations among teenagers. At the time, the drink was appealing to many people who wanted to get intoxicated without experiencing the sedating effects of regular alcohol.

This is incredibly risky, however, because it can inadvertently cause people to drink more than they should (via the Cleveland Clinic). As a result, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued warnings, claiming that the drink posed a risk to consumer health because "consumers — particularly young, inexperienced drinkers — may not realize how much alcohol they have consumed because caffeine can mask the sense of intoxication." While Four Loko no longer contains caffeine, there are plenty of other caffeinated alcoholic drinks on the market that have since taken their place.

What happens when you mix alcohol and energy drinks

Exactly how the combination of alcohol and energy drinks impacts your health is largely dependent on the ways in which they independently and collectively interact with adenosine (via Self). Adenosine is a naturally occurring chemical that relaxes and dilates blood vessels. It also impacts your central nervous system by regulating your sleep-wake cycle.

According to Dr. Brandon Fritz, a postdoctoral fellow in the psychiatry department at the Indiana University School of Medicine, high levels of adenosine in the body can contribute to sleepiness. As a result, drinking alcohol can cause these levels to rise, whereas consuming caffeine can have the opposite effect and actually ward off drowsiness. "Caffeine works to kick-start your [energy] by blocking adenosine receptors in your brain, stopping that sleepy signal and perking you up," Dr. Fritz told Self.

One similarity that alcohol and caffeine share, however, is the ability to increase your heart rate and blood pressure. This means that when you consume beverages that contain both caffeine and alcohol, you're doubling the impact the two substances can have on your heart. This can potentially lead to atrial fibrillation and other more serious heart problems.