Energy Drink Consumption Linked to Alcoholism

Written by Jason Knapfel

According to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm, sales of energy drinks rose nine percent to $3.54 billion last summer. It’s a booming business with a loyal fan base, particularly with college students.

The energy drinks’ high doses of sugar and caffeine help students stay up all night cramming for tests, or to stay up to let loose and party, often mixing them with alcohol.

“Mostly college students buy,” says Adam Smith, a convenience store worker in Shelby, North Carolina. “Different age groups, but primarily college students.”

Lately energy drinks have come under fire following reports of hospitalizations and even deaths tied to the drinks.

The caffeine content of energy drinks ranges from 70 to 200 mg per 16-oz serving, about twice that of an average cup of coffee. Couple that with the fact that a new University of Texas Medical School study reports that the caffeine combined with other ingredients such as guarana, taurine, herbs, vitamins and minerals may interact adversely, and you can see why there is concern. The potential adverse side effects include abnormal heart rate, high blood pressure and an altered mental state, especially when consumed in large amounts with alcohol.

The dangers of mixing energy drinks and alcohol are well-documented. While having one or two mixed drinks may not be a problem, the energy-boosting ingredients in the mix give people a false sense of sobriety, which can lead to alcohol abuse.

In fact, a new study is linking regular energy drink consumption with alcohol abuse. The study found that college students who consume energy drinks at least once a week are more than twice as likely as their peers to show signs of alcohol dependence. They may show symptoms of withdrawal and the inability to control or cut back their drinking.

Since mixing alcohol and energy drinks have become so popular, particularly with college students, companies have started to cut out the middleman and are now just pre-mixing them. Four Loko and Joose are two alcoholic energy drink brands that have come under intense scrutiny after the potent mixes have been tied with fatalities.

Nine Central Washington University students were recently hospitalized after drinking Four Loko. If that’s not bad enough, students across the country at the University of Maryland went on record to say that they would still drink the beverage, even knowing the risk.

In the meantime, states have already started to ban the drinks, including Washington, Utah, Michigan and Oklahoma.

In response, Phusion Projects, the makers of Four Loko, say that they will remove caffeine from their product. This came on the heels of a pending FDA announcement that caffeine is an unsafe food additive to alcoholic drinks.

While the University of Maryland students may have a point, that it’s about moderation, unfortunately that word is not in the vocabulary of many college students, particularly those who are just starting to experience complete freedom from their parents – a perfect recipe for exploration and overindulgence.








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