One of the many dangerous new trends involving substance abuse among adolescents and young adults includes mixing alcohol and energy drinks that contain caffeine. This may not seem like that big of a deal at first, but new information reveals the effects are more severe than some might think. Researchers at Purdue University conducted a study that showed mixing alcohol and caffeinated beverages can alter the makeup of the developing brain.
Causing damage to a growing neural center has long lasting effects, the researchers also concluded that these adolescents and teenagers are more likely to develop problems with how they deal with rewarding substances as adults. This means that drug use or alcohol use may be a bit more difficult for them to stop or abstain from because their brains have been altered to demand more.
The latest study looked at the effects of drinks on adolescent mice. When the mice were given caffeine and alcohol combinations, researchers were able to observe that the brains of the mice reacted in the same way as when they were given cocaine. This link provided more insight into the dangers of these drink combinations. As the trials went on, the researchers were able to see an increase in certain brain proteins that indicate long-term changes to the neurochemistry of the brain.
“It seems like two substances together push them over a limit that causes changes in their behavior and changes the neurochemistry in their brains. We’re clearly seeing effects of the combined drinks that we would not see if drinking one or the other,” explained Richard van Rijn, an assistant professor at Purdue University.
Alcohol and caffeine combinations are a trend that have observable physical complications. And teenagers are prone to following trends. And while consuming these types of beverages does not ensure that addiction will take place, it is becoming more clear that consumption is likely to lead toward brain alterations that could have more severe effects down the road.
Mixing alcohol with other beverages is nothing new. Bartenders and mixologists have made a living by coming up with different concoctions for consumers. Alcohol and caffeine has been one such combination that has proven to be dangerous for some. Research indicates that mixing alcohol and caffeine can increase the risk for addiction.
Due to the amount of caffeine in the alcohol mixture, consumers tend to drink more in an evening than those who are not consuming this type of drink. Since the caffeine allows a person to stay up longer and it counteracts the drowsiness, they tend to drink more. The dangers of alcohol and caffeine are so grave that many states have started banning drinks like Four Loko. Four Loko is a caffeinated beer that is the equivalent of four beers and a cup of coffee.
With the increased heart rate combined with the intoxicating effects of the alcohol, the toll that caffeinated alcohol beverages take on the body is a risk that many warn is not worth taking. Despite states beginning to ban caffeinated alcoholic beverages, there is really nothing preventing bartenders from combining alcohol and caffeine. Depending on the regulations of the bar or restaurant, a bartender pretty much has free range.
Alcohol by itself tends to make people tired, this is because alcohol is a depressant. Researchers state that the tired feeling that a person receives after consuming alcohol is usually a big reason why they stop drinking for the night. When people consume alcohol with caffeine they no longer receive that tired feeling, so they do not feel as compelled to stop drinking. The more a person goes out and orders caffeine and alcohol the more likely they are to make poor decisions, drink more and ultimately the more at risk they are for developing an alcohol addiction.
In order to prevent caffeine and alcohol from harming someone it is best not to mix the two drinks. Experts agree that those who stay away from alcohol and caffeine mixtures have a better chance at not becoming addicted to alcohol in their lifetime.