Studies have shown that adolescent and young adult drinking patterns vary throughout the year, but that behavior peaks during holidays, such as St. Patrick’s Day (Martell et al., 2006). We know that drinking at a moderate to heavy rate can lead to serious consequences such as date rape, violence, robbery, trouble with the law, and even death. One aspect of drinking that isn’t as commonly considered a risky decision is the type of alcohol being consumed. In this instance, we’re talking about caffeine and alcohol, which primarily happens in two ways:
1) mixing the two separate ingredients together to make a beverage, or
2) beverages where the two substances are pre-mixed, called caffeinated alcoholic beverages. While this sounds harmless, it is quite the opposite.
An article from the journal Contemporary Drug Problems suggests that consumption of caffeine with alcohol may reduce the felt effects of the alcohol, resulting in the consumer drinking more than intended (Kuhns, Clodfelter, Bersot, 2010). Risks associated with overconsumption of alcohol include losing consciousness, alcohol poisoning (as demonstrated here), behavioral changes, and increased vulnerability for becoming a victim of crime. Kuhns et al. (2010) suggest that there is a link between caffeine consumption in general, but also when mixed with alcohol leading to aggressive behavior and victimization. “About 1 million violent crimes occurred in 2002 in which the victims perceived the offender to have been drinking at the time of the offense” (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2010). Caffeine and alcohol may promote aggressive or violent behavior, but also may lead to situations where the consumer is the victim. Examples of this could be robbery and sexual assault. Three additional articles (Reisig et al., 2008; Miller, 2008a, 2008b) suggest that those likely to combine the substances are more likely to take advantage of someone sexually or engaging in and instigating physical altercations (as cited in Kuhns et al., 2010). While these situations are not 100 percent preventable, not over consuming alcohol can reduce your risks of falling victim to these crimes.
If you are of a legal drinking age and choose to celebrate a special occasion or holiday by drinking alcohol, BE CAREFUL. Taking certain precautions will help reduce your risks of alcohol-related problems:
- Plan ahead: Have a designated driver or plan to take a taxi home.
- Keep track of how much you consume. Maintaining a low level of alcohol can prevent you from making risky decisions and actions.
- Stay with the group you came with, and don’t leave with people you don’t know. This can help prevent the likelihood of assault or abduction. Offer a ride or call a cab for a friend trying to drive drunk. Not only will you ensure they won’t get in an accident but also they won’t be breaking the law.
- Intervene or report the incident if you witness an uncomfortable interaction between people that have been drinking. Your intervention could lead to the prevention of physical or sexual assault.
While you may not choose to drink, you can make sure that those who do, do it safely. To learn more about caffeinated alcoholic beverages and their dangerous side effects, check out the Center for Disease Control fact sheet.