Most of the people consumed at least once in their lives coffee or alcohol. Nowadays many alcoholic beverages contain caffeine as a separately added ingredient. A lot of individuals chose to drink beverages containing caffeine. It is normal at this point to wonder if there are any risks in consuming those two together. First of all, we have to understand what caffeine is and how we drink it frequently.

What is caffeine?

Caffeine is a stimulant substance. This substance it usually speeds up the messages traveling between the brain and the body. Caffeine is naturally contained by different leaves, seeds and nuts including:

Caffeine is a stimulant substance. This substance it usually speeds up the messages traveling between the brain and the body. Caffeine is naturally contained by different leaves, seeds and nuts including:

  • Paulinia cupana (is used as a stimulant in energy drinks and snack bars)
  • Cola acuminate (is used in the production of cola beverages)
  • Camelia Sinensis (contained by a particular type of tea)
  • Coffee Arabica (provided by coffee)
  • Theobroma cacao (contained by cocoa and chocolate)

Are caffeinated alcoholic beverages dangerous?

These types of beverages are known under the name of CAB’s (caffeinated drinks). These drinks contain caffeine which is added to the alcoholic drink as an additive. Food and Drug Administration express in several occasions that people should be careful when they consume these beverages. The health concerns about the mix of caffeine and alcohol made FDA send different warning letters to companies producing these beverages. These letters were clear about the fact that caffeine when is included in an alcoholic beverage as a separate ingredient becomes a food additive which is not safe for human health. The letters didn’t target those beverages that contain caffeine as a natural component or those beverages with coffee flavoring.

There are several reasons why FDA started taking measures against the mass production of these beverages. Experts confirmed that caffeine is responsible for masking some special signals that the body gives to determine at what level of intoxication a person is. Caffeinated alcoholic beverages can become dangerous because people drinking them might consume more alcohol than usual and they can get drunk fast without even realize it. It is important to know that caffeine does not change a person’s blood alcohol content levels. Drinking caffeine with alcohol is as risky for a person’s health as it is drinking alcohol by itself. Some studies suggested that when people combine alcohol and caffeine, it might determine them to act differently and they might get involved in life-threatening behaviors. Specialists are still considering the risks that a person who combines alcohol and caffeine is exposed to. Experts believe that this combination might lead to different consequences such as sexual assault, riding with a driver who is under the influence of alcohol and alcohol poisoning.

These premixed alcoholic beverages are sold on the market in special containers. Most of these drinks contain other stimulating ingredients besides caffeine. This fact makes them even more dangerous. They usually hold 12% of alcohol which is a much higher percentage than what a standard beer contains (around 4% or 5%).
Do not imagine these beverages are sold only in clubs or restaurants. They are sold in many states in supermarkets and convenience stores. They are packed in colored and boldly shaped cans or bottles similar to standard beer bottles.

Which companies are selling these beverages?

There are a few companies selling these beverages: United Brands, Charge Beverages Corp, Phusion Projects LLC, and New Century Brewing Co. LLC. These companies are the one who received warning letters from FDA. If you want to know which beverages to avoid here are a few names: Lemon Lime Core Spiked, Core High Gravity HG Green, Four Loko, Core High Gravity HG Orange, Max, Joose, and Moonshot.
The manufacturers of these beverages failed to bring evidence that the addition of caffeine in these drinks is safe. FDA is asking other companies as well to bring proofs that their beverages are safe for people’s health.[1]

How much caffeine is safe to consume daily?

If you are a healthy person, FDA says you can consume even 400 milligrams a day (probably is more than most people drink: about four or five cups of coffee daily). This amount was not associated with adverse health effects or health risks. FDA did not provide a number for the safe caffeine level that children can consume in a day, but the American Academy of Pediatrics is against the idea of children and adolescents consuming caffeine or other stimulants, not to mention energy drinks combined with alcohol.

Does energy drinks contain alcohol?

The energy drinks are very popular among teens and young adults. This trend gives birth to a large industry which is sustained by new marketing strategies. More than 31% of teens and 34%-51% of 18 to 25- year-old young people admitted that they drink these products often.

The energy drinks are very popular among teens and young adults. This trend gives birth to a large industry which is sustained by new marketing strategies. More than 31% of teens and 34%-51% of 18 to 25- year-old young people admitted that they drink these products often.

You might be surprised to find out what an energy drink contains. These drinks contain sugar derivatives, guarana (a stimulating substance similar to caffeine), caffeine and taurine (an amino acid which stimulates the body’s energy). In most of these drinks, manufacturers use caffeine as a main ingredient (80 to 141 mg of caffeine per 8 oz= 1 cup of coffee or 2 soda cans).
Experts are examining the health effects that caffeine and alcohol have on young adults or even children.

Experts are examining the health effects that caffeine and alcohol have on young adults or even children.
Many adolescents and college students mix energy drinks with alcohol (AMED). In a survey, 56% of college students recognized that they often drink energy drinks with alcohol. Usually, they get these drinks from bars. These students often organize parties were they mix themselves alcohol and energy drinks or they buy premixed caffeinated alcoholic beverages. Sometimes they drink alcohol and after a while, they have an energy drink as well, which has the same effect on the organism as if they were drinking them together.

Which are the health consequences of consuming AMED?

As we said before, the caffeine contained in an energy drink can reduce the sensation of intoxication, which makes the consumer to drink more alcohol than usually. Because they do not realize they are drunk, these consumers risk their lives by driving under the influence of alcohol. Very often, they continue drinking much more beyond their limits and their judgment, and neurocognitive functioning is impaired. Different studies showed that students who consumed energy drinks with alcohol were more exposed to different drinking health consequences such as riding with a drunk driver, committing sexual assault, requiring medical assistance or even having a motor vehicle crash.

As we said before, the caffeine contained in an energy drink can reduce the sensation of intoxication, which makes the consumer to drink more alcohol than usually. Because they do not realize they are drunk, these consumers risk their lives by driving under the influence of alcohol. Very often, they continue drinking much more beyond their limits and their judgment, and neurocognitive functioning is impaired. Different studies showed that students who consumed energy drinks with alcohol were more exposed to different drinking health consequences such as riding with a drunk driver, committing sexual assault, requiring medical assistance or even having a motor vehicle crash.

Research showed that students who often consumed energy drinks were more likely to become heavy drinkers. Another study concluded that young people who consumed AMED were more liable to get drunk faster than those who drank alcohol without caffeine.

Research showed that students who often consumed energy drinks were more likely to become heavy drinkers. Another study concluded that young people who consumed AMED were more liable to get drunk faster than those who drank alcohol without caffeine.

Studies showed as well that caffeine (contained in the energy drinks) allowed moderately intoxicated young people to have quick reactions as if not intoxicated, but their general performance was affected. Caffeine consumed together with alcohol can increase life-threatening behaviors. Even if AMED producing companies claim that caffeine contained in these beverages can reduce sedation, this statement it is not true.

Which are the effects of energy drinks?

  • There are short-term effects:
  • You feel more alert and active
  • Your body temperature rises
  • Your heart rate is increased
  • You need to urinate more often
  • You feel “wired” (your brain and nervous system are stimulated)

What happens when you consume higher doses?

It is important to know that severe injuries or even death from caffeine overdose can occur. Here are some of the health conditions associated with excessive energy drink consumption:

  • You cannot sleep anymore
  • You feel nervous
  • You start having headaches
  • You feel like vomiting
  • Your heart rate is increased
  • You feel unusual heart palpitations

Make sure you do not keep these energy drinks around small children. For them, caffeine poisoning can occur through much smaller doses. Consuming even 1g of caffeine, for them is like drinking 12 energy drinks.

Who should avoid drinking energy drinks?

Pregnant or breastfeeding women

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid drinking caffeinated drinks. It seems like high amounts of caffeine can increase many risks in pregnant women. They can experience a miscarriage, they might have a difficult birth and they can even delivery low-weight babies. Caffeine has a lot of strength and it crosses the placenta. If you are breastfeeding mother, then you should avoid as well drinking energy beverages.

Children and adolescents

Studies showed on several occasions that energy drinks have no nutritional value. As we said before children and young people should avoid consuming caffeinated beverages. They might experience disrupted sleep pattern, anxious reactions or they can even deal with bed-wetting.

People sensitive to caffeine

Caffeine affects people in different ways. If you noticed that only small amounts of caffeine make you restless or changes your sleep pattern, then you should avoid drinking energy beverages.

Sportsmen

It is recommended for people involved in sports activities to avoid drinking caffeinated beverages because caffeine can lead to dehydration. It is wise for them to stay hydrated when they exercise, it can be dangerous for their health if they don’t.[2]

Initiatives against AMED consumption

  • In 2008, more than 10 state attorneys negotiated the terms in which 2 national breweries were producing their beverages and the ingredients used for these beverages. The companies agreed to avoid using caffeine or other stimulants in the use of their products.
  • Another initiative is the one taken by FDA. This organization sent seven warning letters to companies selling premixed caffeinated alcoholic beverages.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted a sheet with warnings and dangers associated with combining alcohol with energy drinks. In 2012, some students received medical assistance because they consumed in excess a drink called Four Loko, a premixed, caffeinated, alcoholic drink. Because of this incident, several states prohibited the sale of this product.
  • These initiatives managed to increase the awareness about the health risks of premixed AMED. However, many teenagers are still consuming AMED, because they mix the alcohol and the energy drinks on their own. It is recommended that parents, health care professionals and university administrators, as well as consumers of AMED, stay informed about the dangers that AMED pose on health.
  • Unfortunately, there are no regulations on the amount of caffeine contained in energy drinks. There are also no requirements about labeling the exact ingredients and the possible health risks that a person who consumes these drinks is exposed to. Usually, the amount of caffeine included in these beverages is not listed on the label.

[3][4]

How FDA responds to the increasing number of products with added caffeine?

Presently, FDA is involved in conducting several investigations into the safety of caffeine in food and beverages products.
The famous brand Wrigley’s started to promote a new pack of trendy gums. There are eight pieces and each of them contains a large amount of caffeine (is like you are drinking half a cup of coffee). FDA explains that this product appeared as a result of the increasing trend of adding caffeine to food. These products are available to children and adolescents use, without any regulations or warnings about the health risks.

Experts declared that chewing a whole pack of this new gum is similar to drinking four cups of coffee. What is more concerning, FDA says, is that companies started to add caffeine in sunflower seeds, in jelly beans, in marshmallows and other snacks available on the market.

They created even instant oatmeal with added caffeine. One serving of this oatmeal is like drinking a full cup of coffee. Is the same case with some type of waffles and a so-called “wired” syrup.

For most people, the proliferation of these products is very distressing. FDA says it is important to find out and be informed about the safe daily level of the consumption of caffeine. FDA alerted many organizations and stays in touch with the Grocery Manufacturers Association (it represents food, beverage, and consumer-products companies) and with American Beverage Association (this organization represents the non-alcoholic beverage industry), to find proper measures to manage this added caffeine situation.

It seems like manufacturers are allowed to add caffeine in their products as long as they respect the safety standards and they include all the ingredients on the label of the product. However, FDA approved the use of caffeine in beverages only one time, in 1950’s for cola drinks. They didn’t expect this isolated fact to become a trend.[5]

What are the effects of caffeine on the human body?

Caffeine can affect everyone. People get affected by it depending on several elements such as:

  • Size, weight, and health
  • Whether the person is used to taking it
  • The amount that was taken
  • Whether other drugs are taken around the same time

Different effects can occur after consuming caffeine, sometimes, only after 5 minutes. These effects may disturb the normal functioning of the body for the next 12 hours:

  • You feel more alert and active
  • You have the urge to urinate more often
  • You breathe faster, and your heart rate is increased
  • Your body temperature is high
  • You feel restlessness, excitability, and dizziness
  • You experience anxiety and irritability
  • You might get stomach pains
  • You get headaches, and you have a hard time to concentrate

It is important to know that studies showed that children and adolescents who consume energy drinks with added caffeine might also suffer from bed-wetting, sleep disorders, and anxiety.
Make sure you avoid consuming too much caffeine because it can lead to overdose. The signs you consumed too much caffeine are:

  • Tremors
  • Confusion and panic attack
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Very fast and irregular heart rate

Many people consume drinks with caffeine so that they can continue their hard work or because they have an exam the next day, and they have to study the whole night. However, the next day they will feel drained and lethargic the entire day.

Which are the long-term effects of drinking coffee and caffeinated drinks?

If you drink more than 4 cups of coffee a day, you might develop health conditions such as

  • Osteoporosis
  • Ulcers
  • High blood pressure and heart disease
  • Depression
  • Infertility (in men and women)
  • Stomach heartburns
  • The urge to drink more
  • Dependence on caffeine
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disorders

How does caffeine withdrawal feel like?

If you decide to give up drinking caffeine after you consume it in large quantities for a long time, you should expect to have some specific symptoms. The body needs time to adjust functioning without caffeine. Withdrawal symptoms start in the first 24 hours after you consumed the last dose. These symptoms are challenging, and they can last for around 36 hours, or even longer for those who drank caffeine a lot.

  • You might get these symptoms:
  • You feel frequent headaches
  • You might experience pain in the muscles
  • You start sweating more
  • You feel tired
  • You feel anxious and tensed[6]

1. [Footnote 1]http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm233987.htm
2. [Footnote 2]http://www.druginfo.adf.org.au/fact-sheets/energy-drinks-do-they-really-give-you-wings-web-fact-sheet
3. [Footnote 3]http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1487124
4. [Footnote 4]https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol/alcohol-energy-drinks
5. [Footnote 5]http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm350570.htm
6. Footnote 6]http://www.druginfo.adf.org.au/drug-facts/caffeine

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