College is an important time in a young person's life, where they begin to learn about independence and responsibility while exploring their life options. While academics are a central component to all of this, there is also a huge social aspect that involves making friends, developing relationships, and having fun.

Unfortunately, having fun at that age can also involve certain forms of dangerous behavior, including the excessive consumption of alcohol along with various levels of reckless behavior that it encourages. In addition to the health hazards of acting impulsively as a result of drinking, there are enormous emotional and psychological consequences, as well.

Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Caffeine

Recently, the government banned the sale of pre-made cocktails like Four Loko, also referred to as "blackout in a can," that incorporate large amounts of caffeine with alcohol because they presented a serious health hazard to the teenagers who drink them. Now, as reported on ABCnews.com, they are sending out a warning to people who add their own alcohol to commercially available energy drinks like Red Bull because it involves many of the same hazards. These homemade concoctions are also believed to carry a greater risk for impulsive behavior than traditional cocktails.

In a recent study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, researchers studied 56 college students who were randomly assigned to drink various combinations of either vodka and Red Bull or vodka and soda. What the found was that the addition of energy drinks like Red Bull are pharmacologically different than just alcohol and water or soda, causing a person to think they are more in control even though they are equally impaired by the alcohol.

As a consequence, health experts warn that mixing caffeinated energy drinks with liquor masks the intoxicating effects of the alcohol because the caffeine makes you feel more energized and alert. This can often lead to greater consumption, and as a result, greater intoxication.

Interestingly enough, it is the soporific effect of alcohol, the same one that can make people act foolishly and impulsively, that can also limit how much a person drinks by causing them to slow down and stop drinking. When that sedative effect is tempered with caffeine, the drinker is less aware of when to stop and simply continues drinking, the results of which can be dangerous on a number of levels.

Responsible Drinking

Though the ban on pre-mixed alcohol and energy drinks was an important first step in protecting the health and safety of the public, experts indicate that the regulation of the two separately will be difficult, if not impossible. With this in mind, it becomes the responsibility of the consumer as well as the people around them to practice responsible drinking and to know when to stop.

It is therefore extremely important for young people, especially in social situations like parties and bars, to know the risks of mixing alcohol with these energy drinks and to avoid them if possible.

If you have questions or concerns, speak with your doctor and visit the website for WebMD.

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