What’s the BUZZ? Caffeine vs. Alcohol

We all know that caffeine is a stimulant, and most of us have a daily dose to fight fatigue and pep us up. So why create caffeinated ALCOHOLIC drinks? Doesn’t that seem counter intuitive to put a stimulant (caffeine) with a sedative (alcohol)? A recent interesting high quality study, Acute impact of caffeinated alcoholic beverages on cognition: A systematic review points out a few facts you might want to share with your favorite college student…

  • Energy drinks combined with alcohol DO decrease fatigue and “PERCEPTION of intoxication”
  • However, despite FEELING unimpaired, complex tasks such as driving definitely ARE impaired.
  • Additionally, caffeinated alcoholic beverages INCREASE impulsivity- which can obviously lead to drinking too much (further decreasing judgment and increasing impulsive choices).
  • Finally, with this cycle of feeling less buzz and drinking more, ALCOHOL ADDICTION may increase.

I find this study particularly interesting in light of the “pre-gaming” with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) meds and alcohol that has become increasingly common on college campuses. Same concept- the ADD med stimulant taken before drinking alcohol blunts the “buzz” response from alcohol…at least for the first few drinks. Unfortunately, these stimulants do not blunt the other effects of alcohol toxicity such as decreased gag reflex, poor muscle coordination, feeling off-balance, nausea, vomiting, and ultimately impaired breathing. So what happens is you feel “fine” till suddenly you are unpleasantly drunk, then you risk vomiting with impaired consciousness and/or gag reflex…allowing you to choke and aspirate your own vomit-which, by the way, can be lethal. Or worse, you feel “fine” and choose to drive because you have no idea that your judgment and motor skills are significantly decreased, leading to a wreck that hurts not only you but potentially others…because you are driving a one ton weapon.

BOTTOM LINE: Combining caffeinated energy drinks (or ADD meds) with alcohol is a potentially very dangerous choice because you blunt the “buzz” of alcohol without decreasing the other negative effects of rising blood alcohol levels. Just say NO.

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