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How Safe Is a Red Bull and Vodka? MomTalk

New ER stats revealing potential dangers in the energy drinks loved by so many teens and young adults — who mix them with booze.

According to a federal report issued last month by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, emergency room visits involving young adults and energy drinks have skyrocketed in the United States since 2005.

The drinks, which contain high amounts of caffeine, when consumed in excess can cause heart palpitations, dizziness, headache and fainting.

The report states that 56 percent of those treated in the ER for complications attributed to high caffeine consumption were the result of energy drinks alone. But many kids are choosing to mix their poisons. The idea is that by consuming more energy drinks, they will be able to stay awake long enough to drink more alcohol. Not only are they becoming dangerously inebriated, but their hearts are taking a beating as well.

The American Beverage Association countered the report saying that the 13,114 people treated last year for abuse of energy drinks was insignificant compared to the 123 million people treated in the ER every year.   

Despite its claim the drinks contain half the caffeine of coffee, the journal Pediatrics revealed that the drinks actually contain three times that of an equal-sized cup of joe.

Medical professionals are calling for government enforced regulations on all energy drinks. Some suggest warning labels would be a good start. Others are calling for their marketing campaigns to change direction, with less attention placed on sports played by younger people.

Would warning labels be effective in thwarting the abuse of energy drinks among teens and young adults? Would an age restriction be more effective?

Jordan Bigredboots December 07, 2011 at 06:22 PM
Jill - And while you are at it - why don't you ban all those EVIL caffeinated alcohol drinks, Like Peppermint Schnapps in Mochas, Kahlua and Coffee and Jack and Coke! Before you start talking about banning caffeinated drinks - actually do some research. Ill bet you consume more caffeine in your starbucks than most do drinking a Monster or 5 hour energy shot.
Denise Du Vernay December 07, 2011 at 08:20 PM
I teach college, and every day a handful of students have an energy drink in class, some of whom have it for lunch. One student told me that some of the new ones actually taste GOOD (unlike Red Bull, apparently). This is scary stuff; I'm with Jill--there should be an age restriction on energy drinks and at the very least, bars should stop offering them as mixers. Energy drink representatives shouldn't be allowed to visit bars and campuses to pass out samples. And to Jordan Bigredboots, I'm sorry, but you're way off about the caffeine and owe Jill an apology. In addition to ingredient caffeine, Guarana is often also added to these drinks. Guarana has an abundance of caffeine and, since it occurs in the herb naturally, the amount of caffeine varies, making one can drastically different in caffeine content from the next. You see, it's not just the caffeine that makes energy drinks dangerous, it's the unregulated use of herbs (guarana and others) that affect different people in different ways and interact with prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Do some research of your own and look up the side effects, drug interactions, and sexual effects of ginseng, for example. Also, keep in mind that many of these drinks, like Monster, have the word "vitamins" printed on their cans, making the ignorant believe it's healthy and/or an appropriate meal replacement. Vodka mixed with an energy drink is not the same as an Irish coffee. Not even close.
Resident December 07, 2011 at 10:10 PM
You are right. Red Bull has about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of Joe. But I think the danger of mixing Red Bull with alcohol is that consumers typically drink more of Red Bull and vodka (or whatever) because they don't feel drunk after having a couple or few Red Bulls and vodka (or whatever). This is different from Kahlua over ice or Kahlua and coffee as an after dinner drink or a few Jack and Cokes because of the additional ingredient in the Red Bull energy drink: Vitamin B. That Vitamin B makes the consumer not feel as drunk as he or she really is. There is a danger in that... alcohol poisoning at a higher degree than if a consumer stops drinking after feeling drunk. Not to mention drinking then driving. It seems that younger drinkers (or the immature drinkers, in the case of those who may not be young in age but just plain stupid and immature) are turning to the Red Bull alcohol drink so they can stay up all night and all morning drinking, without feeling sleepy, and with the assumption, from not feeling drunk, that that all is well and there’s no need to call a cab. It’s a recipe for disaster, really, because of the feeling of not being as drunk as you really are.
Darin Johnson December 08, 2011 at 05:21 AM
What a bunch of dummies we must be raising if we can't trust them to make their own decisions when they reach college Denise. I realize you have their best interest at heart but I would hope if a 20 yr old needs a red bull they can make that decision without society's permission. I have heard energy drinks are popular with our troops, surely you would not ban them from having them would you? At some point we have to trust even teenagers to do the right thing, we can not regulate everything in society that may be harmful to them.
Nature Lover December 08, 2011 at 12:51 PM
I agree with Darin above. I also don't think there should be warning labels or age restrictions on energy drinks. As stated in the second paragraph, energy drinks (just like alcohol, coffee, soda, etc. etc.) when taken "IN EXCESS" can cause problems. Duh! I drink a Red Bull every day and I let my kids drink energy drinks. According to the Tribune article, there is more caffeine in a cup of coffee (200 mg/8 oz), than a can of Red Bull (80 mg/8.3 oz) There are also vitamins and minerals in Red Bull and none in coffee or soda.

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