Combination of caffeine and alcohol has negative impact on brain
Drinking energy drinks and other caffeinated beverages has become common practice among university students to help them stay up all night. However, this can be very dangerous when these drinks are mixed with alcohol.
Energy drinks contain high amounts of caffeine. When mixed with a depressant like alcohol, it can prove to be a dangerous combination. The stimulating caffeine masks the effects of the alcohol, thereby allowing one to drink more than they normally would without immediately feeling the effects. This state is called being “wide awake drunk,” where one “feels” alert but their cognitive and physical functions are still impaired. Because you are alert, you may not realize how much the alcohol is affecting you and your judgement, and balance and coordination may be significantly impaired. Thus, the amount of alcohol you consume still impacts your brain even if you don’t realize it.
Have you ever heard of drinking a cup of coffee to sober up? In reality, this is not effective. Caffeine has no effect on the liver’s metabolism of alcohol, meaning the alcohol stays in your body for the same amount of time whether you drink caffeine or not. Instead of sobriety, you really feel the alertness of the caffeine counteracting the alcohol depressant. This phenomenon can have very dangerous repercussions in decision-making, particularly with driving under the influence. The stimulating effect of the caffeine can lead people to believe they have sobered up, when in fact they have the same elevated breath-alcohol concentration and physical impairment as they did before.
Pre-mixed Caffeinated Alcohol Beverages (CABs), were criticized when they were first manufactured due to their lack of regulation. In 2010, Health Canada directed manufacturers to use caffeine from only natural sources. This directive was soon followed by independent regulations at the provincial level, where many provinces placed restrictions on the amount of allowable caffeine content per alcoholic beverage.
However, it is still unclear exactly how much caffeine is present and what the precise regulations are. These products remain poorly labelled with very little nutritional information. As consumers, we should exercise caution and realize that just because something is readily available does not necessarily make it a good idea. We must remember that alcohol and caffeine are both drugs, and respect that some things should not mix.