The dark side of energy drinks, Part I: alcohol abuse

November 23, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

What is college life without energy drinks? Ask any college student and he or she will tell you.

Energy drinks are pretty “in” among young people nowadays. Increased energy and enhanced performance are just among the desirable of these drinks. However, there is a dark side to energy drinks that we might not know about.

Recent research shows links between energy drink use and undesirable and dangerous behavior. In this series, we explore the dark side of energy drinks.

Energy drinks are handy in staying up late to cram for the following morning’s exam. What is becoming increasingly common is mixing energy drinks and alcoholic drinks, with the misconception that caffeine counteracts the effect of alcohol and there avoid drunkenness. The result is a strong brew of caffeine and alcohol in the bloodstream. A recent study indicates that those who habitually consume energy drinks are at a higher risk of developing alcohol dependence and going on binge drinking.

The study looked at more than 1000 college students and data on consumption of energy drinks and alcohol of the past 12 months were collected. The findings indicate that those who consumed energy drinks at a high frequency (compared to both non- and low-frequency energy drink users) were more likely to

  • get drunk at an earlier age
  • consume more alcoholic drinks per drinking session
  • develop alcohol dependence

Kathleen Miller, research scientist from the Research Institute on Addictions at the University at Buffalo, warns against the common belief that

  • mixing alcohol and caffeine reduces drunkenness
  • mixing alcohol and caffeine  prevents hangovers
  • alcohol plus caffeine fools a breathalyzer test

“Caffeine does not antagonize or cancel out the impairment associated with drunkenness—it merely disguises the more obvious markers of that impairment.”

Energy drinks, popularly known in the brand names Red Bull, Monster, Rocks Star contain high amounts of caffeine – 3 to 10 times contained in a can of coke. In addition, they also contain other rather questionable ingredients. Last year, German authorities found traces of cocaine in Red Bull Cola, a product declared as 100% natural.

A big problem is the fact that energy drinks are largely unregulated, even in the US. According to study lead author Dr. Amelia M. Arria, Director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health:

The fact that there is no regulation on the amount of caffeine in energy drinks or no requirements related to the labeling of contents or possible health risks is concerning.”

Pediatricians should warn patients about alcohol abuse

April 13, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Can you imagine your 13-year old daughter sipping a margarita? Or your 15-year old son downing a pint of beer? It seems unimaginable but it is more common than we think. During the last couple years, there have been more and more cases of teenagers collapsing following binge drinking, some even falling into alcohol-induced coma or dying.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is urging pediatric doctors to discourage their patients to consume alcohol. This is according to the latest policy statement issued by the AAP. The reasons for this call may seem obvious but here are some things we should be aware of:

Adolescent alcohol consumption:

But hey, how can teenagers get access to alcohol? That’s what the alcohol age limit is for, right?

Unfortunately, there are lots of ways and means by which teenager can cheat or get around alcohol legislations.

False ID. Having a false ID is the most common way by which teens get access to alcohol. The IDs are for sale on the streets and a large proportion of urban teens have them.

Loopholes in the legislation. Alcohol legislations are full of loopholes. Here are some examples:

  • In Switzerland, teens are not allowed to enter clubs and other establishments where alcohol us served. There is, however, a loophole: they can, if they are accompanied by an adult, somebody who is at least 18 years old. In other words, a group of teens would only need one fake ID to get into these places. Once they are in, access to alcohol gets easier.
  • In the US, some states have lower age limit than others. Thus, young people can cross statelines and get drunk there legally.

Alcohol at home. Finally, the easiest way for teens to get access to alcohol is by raiding dad ‘s or mom’s stock.  In the UK, even children have alcohol if supervised by an adult at home. Unfortunately, the term “supervision” is not clearly defined by law, leaving its implementation at the discretion of the parents.

Finally, here are some statistics from the Center of Disease Prevention and Control (CDC):

The new AAP policy statement indicates that parental guidance on alcohol may not be enough, that inputs from health care professionals, especially primary care physicians, may curb the growing teenage alcohol problem.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.