In recent years there has been increasing attention on the practice of mixing alcohol and energy drinks due to an increase in young people consuming these products, and growing evidence of the potential harms.
Not only is alcohol being mixed with energy drinks by consumers and at licensed venues but there is also a growing number of pre-packaged alcoholic energy products such as Hi NRG and Pulse.
The amount of caffeine in some energy drinks exceeds 500mg which is equivalent to six cups of coffee. Consumption of these drinks can lead to adverse health effects associated with excessive caffeine consumption including insomnia, nervousness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, and heart palpitations.
Individuals who combine alcohol with energy drinks may be more likely to experience some of the harmful consequences of alcohol intoxication than individuals who drink alcohol alone. When alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, the caffeine in these drinks can mask the depressant effects of alcohol including feelings of intoxication.
This can be problematic because when feelings of intoxication are masked, the individual may believe they are able to drink more, thereby increasing their likelihood of further consumption and intoxication, impaired judgement and alcohol poisoning. This, in turn, may place them at increased risk of alcohol related harms such as drinking while drunk, having an accident (e.g. walking in front of traffic), or risky sexual behaviours.
Consumers of alcohol and energy drinks are also at increased risk of dehydration because alcohol and the high levels of caffeine in the energy drink both have diuretic effects.
In April 2011, the Western Australian Director of Liquor Licensing banned the sale of alcohol and energy drinks in licensed venues in Perth from the hours of midnight to 2am. No other jurisdictions have introduced such a ban.
The Foundation supports efforts by specific jurisdictions to regulate the way that alcohol and energy drinks are sold. We also believe that the Commonwealth Government should examine whether the pre-mixed products available for sale in Australia should be banned, as has occurred in the United States1.
At the very least, we support increasing awareness among consumers of the potential harms that can result from mixing alcohol and energy drink.
The Foundation is also committed to building the Australian evidence base on the harms that can result from mixing alcohol and energy drinks. Visit our Research Library to find out more about our work in this area.