Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages
The Food and Drug Administration has completed the process of assessing the safety of caffeinated alcoholic beverages: the conclusion (November 17, 2010) states that “…alcohol containing added caffeine presents unusual risks to health and safety.” (http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/11/alcohol.shtm)
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and as indicated it slows down the nervous system. However,at low doses alcohol may cause the heart rate to increase temporarily which creates a mildly stimulating effect. On the other hand, caffeine is the opposite, it works as a nervous system stimulant thus speeding up various organs and body functions - examples are the heart rate, alertness, not feeling a need for sleep, and other actions/reactions.
By combining the two a person will feel the effect of caffeine stimulation, using the example of not feeling the need for sleep, they will stay awake longer instead of succumbing to the normal depressant effects of alcohol. Individuals will then tend to: A. drink faster due to caffeine stimulation and B. drink longer because they are not ‘slowing down’ due to the depressive qualities of alcohol. Students are ending up with a much higher blood alcohol concentration much sooner. Add that to the fact that the alcohol content of caffeinated alcoholic beverages such as Four Loko is almost double, and in some cases triple that of regular beer.
Awareness and education are important for active risk management and people should be aware of not only the health consequences for themselves but for the safety of friends as well. Know the signs of alcohol poisoning and be ready to help someone who is exhibiting the signs/symptoms. Do not assume a person will be fine sleeping it off, a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. Even after an individual stops drinking any alcohol in the stomach and small intestine will continue to enter the bloodstream – a person can ingest a fatal dose of alcohol before becoming unconscious. Don't be afraid to seek medical help for a friend who has had too much to drink.
Critical Signs for Alcohol Poisoning
- Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or person cannot be roused
- Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness
- Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
- Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute)
What Should I Do If Someone Has Alcohol Poisoning?
- Do not wait for all symptoms to be present
- Know the danger signals
- If there is any suspicion of an alcohol overdose, call 911 for help. Don't try to guess the level of drunkenness
- Be aware that a person who has passed out may die
Interactive Journaling, 2005. The Change Companies; Marlatt & Parks.
ETR Associates, 2009. Binge Drinking. (www.etr.org).
The Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Violence Prevention. U.S. . .
Department of Education. (www.higheredcenter.org).