Alcohol and Caffeine

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Many people have the assumption that caffeine may help a person sober up if they have been drinking most of the night. Not only is this false, but it can lead to dangerous consequences if a person mixes alcohol and caffeine. It may give people false confidence that they are more sober to drive while intoxicated, continue alcohol consumption for more extended periods, and there can be some interactions with caffeine and alcohol.

This article will discuss the side effects of mixing alcohol and caffeine, whether caffeine can help you sober up, and the consequences associated with alcohol and caffeine.

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Side Effects of Mixing Alcohol & Caffeine

As one might imagine, there are side effects of mixing alcohol and caffeine. One of the most important lessons is that alcohol does not make a person sober. If a person consumes caffeine, it may make them more alert. However, their blood alcohol content is still high and may get higher if a person thinks they can mix alcohol and caffeine. Secondly, caffeine does not stop the effects of alcohol on the body’s system, so a person may think they are safer to consume larger quantities of alcohol for an extended period.

This combination is dangerous because a person may think they are sober since they feel more alert but become more intoxicated than if they were to have alcohol alone. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to severe intoxication, damage the body, and put a person at risk of death or injury.

Dangers of Mixing Alcohol & Energy Drinks

Mixing alcohol and energy drinks is widespread, especially among young adults and college-age students. In 2017, 10.6% of high school students and 31.8% of young adults 19-28 had used alcohol and energy drinks at least once in the past year.

It was also found that people aged 15-23 who mixed alcohol and energy drinks were 4x more likely to binge drink in excess than drinkers who did not mix alcohol and caffeine.

According to the CDC, People who mix alcohol and energy drinks reported people to engage in unwanted or unprotected sex, driving drunk, or sustaining alcohol-related injuries.

Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages

Caffeinated alcoholic beverages were popular in the 2000s. They consisted of alcohol, typically a higher alcohol content than beer, and caffeine or other stimulants. These drinks targeted young adults by comparing them with the rush of extreme sports or other risk-taking behaviors. In 2010, the FDA removed these drinks from the market, citing that the level of caffeine in alcoholic beverages was deemed unsafe.

One of the former caffeinated alcoholic beverages, Four Loko, was in the news for possibly contributing to the death of teenagers and young adults when found dead with the empty cans next to them. This specific drink has been banned in several states due to the dangers of mixing alcohol and caffeine.

Does Caffeine Help Sober You Up?

As discussed, caffeine does not help an individual achieve soberness when consuming alcohol. Although caffeine increases alertness, alcohol remains in the system leading to further intoxication.

The only way a person can genuinely achieve soberness is for the liver to detoxify alcohol from the bloodstream. How long does alcohol remain in one’s system? The amount of time it takes for alcohol to leave the body depends on several factors. Some tests detect alcohol for up to 24 hours.

Factors That Affect Alcohol Metabolism:

  • Sex — Women tend to have a higher blood alcohol content and eliminate alcohol faster than men.
  • Age — Teens, young adults, and older adults emit alcohol more slowly.
  • Food — Metabolism rate increases with food intake.
  • Time of day — Alcohol metabolizes faster at the end of the day.
  • Exercise — Alcohol emits faster during exercise.
  • Alcoholism — Heavy drinking increases the rate. However, liver damage decreases it.

There are specific steps one can take to reduce the effects of alcohol. Here are the following tips to improve the outcomes from alcohol.

Ways to Reduce Effects of Alcohol: 

  • Eat food to help metabolize alcohol.
  • Water can help reduce one’s blood alcohol content.
  • Avoid caffeine.

Alcohol impacts the central nervous system by increasing slowness and trouble with balance, thinking, and attention. Caffeine also affects the central nervous system but increases alertness and can lead to a jittery sensation or anxiety if too much caffeine is consumed. Combining both substances puts stress on the body and can increase the risk of excessive intoxication. Please seek medical attention immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms.

Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning:  

  • Feeling confused or disoriented.
  • Severe loss of coordination.
  • Being conscious but not responsive.
  • Vomiting.
  • Irregular breathing.
  • Slowed breathing.
  • Clammy, pale skin.
  • Difficulty remaining conscious.
  • Difficulty waking.
  • Seizures.

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Is Caffeine Dangerous?

Caffeine alone is considered relatively safe. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. For example, pregnant people taking certain medications and having an anxiety disorder may need to reduce the amount of caffeine they consume. According to the FDA, staying within 400 milligrams of coffee daily is ok. A grande cup of Starbucks has 310 mg of coffee. The FDA estimates that consuming 1200 mg of caffeine can trigger toxic effects and seizure activity.

There are signs to look for if you have consumed more caffeine than you can tolerate.

Symptoms of Over-Consuming Caffeine:

  • Insomnia.
  • Jitters.
  • Anxiousness.
  • Fast heart rate.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Nausea.
  • Headache.
  • Feeling of unhappiness.

Researchers have identified these 7 reasons why alcohol and caffeine should not be combined. Because of this, they have described the combination as a “Perfect Storm.”

7 Side Effects of Alcohol and Caffeine: 

  • Feeling more alert and less drunk.
  • Allows people to drink more alcohol.
  • Easier to experience alcohol poisoning.
  • Increased risk of misusing alcohol.
  • Greater risk of alcohol dependence.
  • More likely to make mistakes.
  • More at risk for injury, aggression, or unwanted sexual activity.

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Contact us today if you are concerned about your health due to alcohol dependence. You don’t have to wait for your health to decline to prioritize your wellness. Focusing on recovery can improve health, repair relationships, and change your life.

Guardian Recovery will be able to complete a thorough evaluation to assess the treatment program right for you. In addition to a free telephone assessment to evaluate your individual treatment needs, we also can provide a no-obligation insurance benefit check at your convenience.

We work with most major health insurance providers, ensuring our programs remain as accessible as possible to those who need them. However, we will help you explore alternatives, such as self-pay and private pay, if you are uninsured or underinsured.

It can feel overwhelming to reach out for help, and our goal is to ensure our streamlined process is stress-free from beginning to end. Contact us today to begin your new life in recovery.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/caffeine-and-alcohol.htm
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3669601/
  3. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/spilling-beans-how-much-caffeine-too-much#:~:text=For%20healthy%20adults%2C%20the%20FDA,it%20(break%20it%20down).
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3621334/

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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