Talk To Your Teenagers About The Dangers Of Mixing Caffeine And Alcohol
High school students and even middle schoolers drinking at parties is a scenario that can hardly be described as “new.” Proms, graduations, school dances, or just summertime present opportunities for teenagers to start experimenting with alcohol. But regardless of how much that makes your stomach turn as a parent, new research reveals that ways in which today’s kids are drinking is changing — and not just in the Fox news “look-behind-you-because-your-children-are-stealing-liquor-out-of-your-cabinet-as-we-speak” kind of way. Teenagers are now mixing highly-caffeinated drinks with harder alcohol, which not only masks the taste, but prevents them from registering just how hammered they’re getting.
The craze for combining energy drinks, which can have far more caffeine than coffee or cola, with alcohol is particularly troubling. Dr. [Mary Claire] O’Brien first became aware of the phenomenon in 2006 when a student was brought in near-comatose. “The caffeine blocks the part of alcohol that makes you sleepy and might otherwise cause you to pass out. This enables you to drink far more than you might have. By the time many of these kids get to the hospital, they have to be put temporarily on respirators because of depressed breathing.” Disturbed by what they were seeing, Dr. O’Brien and her colleagues conducted a survey that year of 4,271 students from more than 10 universities in North Carolina. “We found that about a quarter of the kids who’d had a drink in the past 30 days said they were mixing alcohol with energy drinks, either the premixed kind or Red Bull and vodka. They got drunk twice as often and drank more per session than those who had alcohol without caffeine. They were much more likely to be injured, much more likely to be taken advantage of sexually or to take advantage of someone sexually, much more likely to drive drunk.”
The article also points out that many teenagers are simply looking to get as drunk as possible, in the shortest amount of time, and for the least amount of money. Obviously if you’re an alcohol-seeking teen in America, you don’t have the luxury of lounging around your living room with a glass of Merlot, savoring the flavor. You need to find something that can be covered by your babysitting money, that can be consumed in the narrow time frame in which adults are not around, and that can also give you the experience of “being drunk” so that repeat efforts won’t need to be made. All that being said, cheap three-dollar energy drinks infused with booze have found the perfect customer in adolescents, and the danger to their safety is ultimately life-threatening.
Addressing the risks of such beverages with children could prevent them from making fatal mistakes come their first drinking experience. Informing them of what to look out for in those types of teenager party settings could make all the difference between them experiencing their first hangover and experiencing their first hangover in a hospital bed.