The Dangers of Mixing Caffeine with Other Substances

By July 21, 2023Health Tips

Last week, we talked about some of the side effects of too much caffeine intake, especially for our kids. Caffeine does have its perks when consumed in moderation. Unfortunately, many kids and adults drink far too much of it. Caffeine can also cause more serious problems when mixed with other substances. We will finish our discussion today by talking about caffeine’s interaction with other substances and how to cut back on caffeine intake.

Dangers of mixing alcohol and caffeine

The Dangers of Mixing Caffeine with Other SubstancesMixing caffeine with alcohol or other drugs, including many prescription drugs as well as illicit drugs is very dangerous. Emergency room visits related to energy drink consumption have increased dramatically over the last 15 years. Often these visits are due to the combination of caffeine with alcohol or drugs. This combination increases the risk of cardiac arrest and death.

A common myth is that caffeine will “sober you up” if you have had too much alcohol. That is absolutely not true. Caffeine has no effect on the metabolism of alcohol by the liver. It does not reduce breath or blood alcohol levels. And it does not reduce the impairment that is a result of alcohol consumption.
When alcohol is mixed with caffeine, the caffeine can mask the depressant effect of alcohol. Because it makes a drinker feel more awake, it gives the false impression of being less drunk, so drinkers often drive while impaired due to the false impression that they get from the caffeine. In addition, drinkers will often drink much more alcohol than they normally would, which can lead to alcohol poisoning and even death.
Mixing alcohol with energy drinks is quite popular, especially among young people in the US. Premixed caffeinated beverages became popular in the early 2000s. The FDA was going to remove them from the market in 2010 due to safety concerns, so the manufacturers removed the caffeine from their products. But you can still buy them separately and mix them, which many kids are doing!
Studies have shown that:
  • Drinkers aged 15-23 who mix alcohol with energy drinks are 4 times more likely to binge drink at high intensity (6 or more drinks per episode).
  • Drinkers who mix alcohol with energy drinks are more likely than those who do not mix alcohol with energy drinks to report unwanted or unprotected sex, driving drunk, or riding with a driver who was intoxicated, or to sustain alcohol-related injuries.
Dangers of mixing caffeine with other substances
There are many substances that interact with caffeine, including over-the-counter and prescription medications, herbal supplements, and illicit drugs. Mixing caffeine with the wrong substance could cause:
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Anxiety, nervousness, irritability
  • Death
What can you do to avoid these dangerous consequences?
  • WARN your children, at all ages, of the dangers of mixing caffeine with other substances.
  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether caffeine may interact with medications or supplements that you are taking.
  • Know what your kids are drinking. Ask them about energy drinks and other caffeine consumption.
  • Cut back on caffeine intake and help your kids do the same.
What can you do to decrease caffeine intake?
Try these measures to help you cut back on caffeine:
  • Pay attention to how much caffeine you and your kids are getting. You may not realize how much you are actually consuming unless you read labels, keep track, and educate yourself. Remember that some foods or drinks that contain caffeine may not have it listed on the label.
  • Cut back gradually. Stopping high caffeine intake abruptly can lead to side effects such as headaches, which may prompt you to abandon the goal. Cut back in small increments, by cutting out one half to one drink a day for instance.
  • Avoid caffeine later in the day. I like to limit my caffeine to less than 30 mg after 1 pm.
  • Choose decaffeinated drinks. They often taste the same as their caffeinated version. Just remember that decaffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, soft drinks) can contain 10-20 mg of caffeine per 8 ounces. Herbal teas that are naturally caffeine-free contain no caffeine.
  • Shorten brew time for tea or go herbal. If you’re a tea drinker like me, you can cut down the brew time, which will decrease the caffeine content.
  • Check the label on over-the-counter medications. Some contain caffeine, which will be on the list of ingredients. Chose alternative medications that do not contain caffeine.
If you have any questions about caffeine and its interaction with other substances, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor

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