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The Increasing Popularity and Affects of Alcohol Mixed with Energy Drinks (amed) Among University Students; a Cause for Concern?

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The Increasing Popularity and Affects of Alcohol Mixed with Energy Drinks (AMED) among University Students; A cause for concern?

Andrew Rieder  B00669370

Dalhousie University

November 26, 2015

The paper was written for Drugs and Drug Education (HPRO2255) taught by Professor Shaun Black at Dalhousie University

The Increasing Popularity and Affects of Alcohol Mixed with Energy Drinks (AMED) Among University Students

1. Introduction

               

               Energy Drinks initially appeared as a consumer product in Australia of 1987. In just ten years, the energy drink giant "Red Bull" had unveiled their beverage as the first to hit the American market and it became instantly popular (Red Bull, 2014). Energy drinks are beverages that contain large doses of caffeine, as well as other legal, natural stimulants such as guarana and ginseng. Caffeine’s popularity has grown due it its sympathetic and stimulating affect on the central nervous system. Although caffeine isn’t necessarily considered a 'drug' by many; or some consumers place it in a lesser category than other 'hard' drugs such as cocaine or heroine; caffeine is indeed a drug and it can still be dangerous and abused as so. In fact, caffeine is one of the most popular drugs in the world. It is a naturally occurring substance found in plants like cocoa beans, tealeaves, and kola nuts. Caffeine is a 'stimulant' and causes the increased firing of neurons in the brain. This is perceived by the pituitary gland, which interprets it as a bodily emergency. This causes the adrenal glands to secrete the 'fight or flight' hormone adrenaline, as well as the 'stress' hormone cortisol (Sargis, 2015). Another aspect of caffeine’s mechanism of action is that also increases dopamine levels. Dopamine is the same neurotransmitter secreted during amphetamine and heroin ‘highs’, which contributes towards caffeine’s addictive potential.  Although people can handle caffeine in moderation and some even say small doses can be good for your health, heavy caffeine consumption, like that of the consumption, or overconsumption of energy drinks, is associated with serious health consequences such as seizures, mania, stroke, and sudden death (Seifert et al., 2011).

Ethyl alcohol (the active ingredient in liquor store 'Alcohol') is an intoxicating ingredient found in beer, wine, and liquor. It is produced through a time consuming process called fermentation, and is consummated by single celled eukaryotes called yeasts. Yeast catabolizes sugars, and starches through the fermentation process; where a bi-product of these reduction oxidation reactions is ethyl alcohol (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014). Alcohol is classified as a depressant because it slows down and inhibits the central nervous system. It causes a decrease in motor coordination, reaction time, as well as intellectual performance. Alcohol does have some beneficial nutritional and antioxidant properties when consumed in moderation, however binge drinking and alcohol abuse can lead to serious health hazards, as severe as brain damage, liver disease, heart disease, and cancer (Hart et al., pg 232-234, 2012).  Alcohol is commonly associated with frequent, increased use during postsecondary education, where its misuse and abuse is continually increasing.   

The popularity of alcohol in combination with energy drinks has consistently grew common since Energy Drinks were introduced to the North American market in 1997, especially among university and college students. This particular combination of beverage, and thus drugs, carries a number of potential dangers:

When alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks (a popular practice among young people), the caffeine content in the energy drinks can mask the depressant effects of alcohol (CDC, 2014). This may lead to alcohol poisoning, injury due to incoordination, and even death due to respiratory failure.  

Another interesting statistic of consumers who drink alcohol concurrent with energy drinks is that they are three times more likely to binge drink than drinkers who do not report mixing alcohol with energy drinks (CDC, 2014)

Drinkers who consume alcohol with energy drinks are around twice as likely as drinkers who do not report mixing alcohol with energy drinks to report being sexually taken advantage of, to report taking advantage of someone else sexually, or to report riding with a driver who was under the influence of alcohol. (CDC, 2014)

Fatigue is one mechanism the body normally uses to express that an individual has enough to drink. Energy drinks and alcohol are both diuretics and therefore put the body at risk for dehydration. Dehydration can hinder the body’s ability to metabolize and 'dispose' alcohol waste, increasing its toxicity (among other potential bodily hazards), and therefore the hangover (and low blood glucose levels), the next day. (Brown University, 2014)

        A considerable factor in the danger this combination potentially has on university students is the ignorance of it. The combination of alcohol and energy drinks can cause severe psychological and physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. To help curb this dependence and abuse problem, the initiation of comprehensive drug prevention programs and initiatives involving universities and their students is encouraged. This will raise the much-needed awareness on consequences of binge drinking and combining alcohol with energy drinks.

Society is only recently starting to realize the possible harm of the combination. For those who combine alcohol and energy drinks regularly it can be very addicting, health hazardous, and may also cause symptoms of withdrawal.  The use of alcohol mixed with energy drinks has substantially increased recently, but is the growing popularity and diverse affects a cause for concern?

2. Methods

Information for this report came from multiple sources. Background information on the history of alcohol and its potential dangers came from the “Grey Literature”; the Drugs, Behaviour, and Society Course textbook available for the Drugs & Drug Education course at Dalhousie University, which has been co-written by the professor of the course, Shaun Black.  Other information collected for this research paper came from bibliographic electronic database search from ‘Dal Libraries’. Things such as “Alcohol abuse in university students”, “Energy drink consumption”, and “The dangers of combining alcohol and energy drinks” were searched, and subsequent PubMed peer-reviewed articles and journals were highlighted. Once articles containing relevant information for this paper were found, links were followed through the PubMed database on articles and journals relating to the use and abuse of the combination of

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