Among the various myths regarding alcohol use, one of the most common is that mixing caffeine with alcohol can help the drinker stay more clear-headed and alert even when drunk.
The truth is that mixing caffeine and alcohol is not recommended, and it can be very dangerous. Whether it is Irish coffee (Irish whiskey, coffee, and cream), Rum and Coke, Jägerbombs (a shot of Jägermeister dropped into an energy drink), Vodka Red Bull, or an espresso Martini—the mixing of alcohol with caffeine can create all kinds of problems, and so is best avoided.
Dangers of Mixing Alcohol & Caffeine
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, while alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. So, as the CDC warns:
“When alcohol is mixed with caffeine, the caffeine can mask the depressant effects of alcohol, making drinkers feel more alert than they would otherwise. As a result, they may drink more alcohol and become more impaired than they realize, increasing the risk of alcohol-attributable harms.”
Even though caffeine can temporarily mask the alcohol’s depressant effects, it does not affect how the liver metabolizes alcohol. In other words, consuming caffeine doesn’t lower blood alcohol concentrations. It does not make the person more sober after drinking alcohol. And—significantly—it doesn’t reduce the physical and mental impairments caused by alcohol consumption.
What caffeine can do is create the deluded perception of being more sober than one is. This, in turn, may tempt that person to drink more than they typically would—and consequently increase their risk of alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, and alcohol-related injuries.
So, while caffeine may create the impression of being less impaired by the alcohol one has consumed, this isn’t the case. And being fooled in this way can have unfortunate consequences.
Alcohol & Energy Drinks
Energy drinks are one type of stimulant that is sometimes mixed with alcohol.
Red Bull, Monster Energy, Bang Energy, Rockstar, and other energy drinks are highly caffeinated beverages that often contain large amounts of sugar and/or other stimulants.
Energy shots—such as 5-Hour Energy, Tweaker Shot, Bang Shot, and Stacker Extreme Energy Shot—are in the same category as energy drinks. Some people are in the habit of using these for a midday pick-up or added oomph on the basketball court or soccer field.
Healthier Alternatives to Energy Drinks
The excessive amount of refined sugar and caffeine—along with artificial flavors and preservatives—make such energy drinks, on their own, of dubious value.
Much healthier alternatives to energy drinks include young coconut water (with its natural variety of electrolytes), matcha (whose caffeine is tempered by L-theanine), black tea, organic unsweetened coffee, or yerba mate (with its vast array of vitamins and minerals).
Dangers of Mixing Alcohol with Energy Drinks
Jägerbombs and Vodka Red Bull are examples of the combination of alcohol and energy drinks. And the reasons why such beverages should be avoided are similar to those described above: While the caffeine in the energy drink may temporarily mask the drowsiness caused by the alcohol—it doesn’t make the person any less drunk.
Combining alcohol and energy drinks is also associated with other risky behaviors:
“Drinkers who mix alcohol with energy drinks are more likely than drinkers who do not mix alcohol with energy drinks to report unwanted or unprotected sex, driving drunk or riding with a driver who was intoxicated, or sustaining alcohol-related injuries.”
Caffeinated Alcohol: An Unsuccessful Experiment
Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages—such as Four Loko and Joose—combine alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants. Beverages such as these came onto the market in the early 2000s.
But in 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned about these CABs, proclaiming the caffeine in such beverages to be an unsafe food additive. In formal legal language, the caffeine was not found to be “generally recognized as safe.” As a result, the companies producing these beverages subsequently removed the caffeine from the products.
This little bit of FDA history demonstrates, once again, that combining alcohol and caffeine is not generally recognized as being a safe practice.
Alcohol & Caffeine: Signs to Watch Out For
Generally, it’s best to avoid combining alcohol and caffeine. Understanding that the caffeine will mask some of the alcohol’s effects of depressing the central nervous system—and be cautious not to exceed the recommended amount of alcohol. Also, since alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, combing the two can lead to dehydration.
Symptoms of dehydration that are good to watch out for include:
- having a dry mouth
- feeling extremely thirsty
- feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- dark-yellow urine
Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol addiction also called alcohol use disorder (AUD), is mental health disorder where the ability to control alcohol intake is limited. AUD is a chronic disease that affects the brain and body. Alcohol addiction often requires treatment to find recovery.
Alcohol is dangerous to detox without assistance because the withdrawal symptoms can be severe. Alcohol withdrawal can include seizures, hallucinations, high blood pressure, and delirium tremens. With professional help, these severe symptoms can be reduced or avoided.
Alcohol Detox in Riverside County, CA
Mixing alcohol and caffeine can be a very dangerous combination leading to physical and mental health problems. Alcohol is a depressant, while caffeine is a stimulant, so combining these substances sends confusing messages to the body and brain.
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol abuse, reach out to Inland Detox in Temecula, CA. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our alcohol detox rehab.