Over the last few years, numerous products containing higher levels of caffeine have surged dramatically in the market. These include energy drinks, powdered caffeine, caffeine pills, buccal caffeine pouches, caffeinated peanut butter and caffeine vaporizer sticks that are often the heavily advertised and purchased products.
Since the consumption of caffeine is itself related to several negative health outcomes, it can inflict devastative consequences when complimented with alcohol. Despite the growing menace of mixing energy drinks with alcohol, very few studies looked into the consequences of such a practice prevalent among people.
Among these caffeinated products, caffeinated energy drinks are the most widely used products. Using intensive advertising and marketing campaigns, these energy drinks have been gaining popularity at a tremendous rate. In fact, growth of these energy drinks escalated to 60 percent from 2008 to 2013. With the increases in the sales of energy drinks, there has also been a massive increase in the number of emergency department (ED) visit.
Stats reveal that 23 to 47 percent of adolescents and young adults consume alcohol along with energy drinks. The caffeine present in these energy drinks make people feel alert and stay awake. Moreover, they can induce people to drink more than the normal requirement. Researchers have illustrated that mixing alcohol with an energy drink is associated with more health risks than drinking alcohol alone, such as sleep issues, raised heart rate, etc.
Mixing of caffeinated drinks with alcohol have cocaine-like repercussions
The potential damages arising from caffeine-mixed alcohol can be acute by leading to numerous neurobehavioral and physical health complications. Both caffeine and alcohol are known to alter the dopaminergic reward pathways of the brain that leads to an increase in the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Based on the above findings, the authors of a study hypothesized that the repeated consumption of caffeine-mixed alcohol beverages can lead to stronger stimulation of the dopaminergic reward pathway compared to the respective effects of caffeine and alcohol. In fact, the activation of the dopaminergic reward pathway is equivalent to the level of dopamine released by the psychostimulant cocaine.
Due to the absence of restrictions on energy drinks, some of them contain as much as ten times the caffeine in soft drinks. A research was carried out by Dr. Richard van Rijn and his team from Purdue University on mice to analyze the way chronic adolescent exposure to caffeine-mixed alcohol leads to changes in drug-related behaviors.
He revealed that both the substances upon persistent and excessive use could cause changes in the behavior of the mice by altering the neurochemistry of their brains. Furthermore, he emphasized that significant changes were witnessed due to the combined effects of both alcohol and energy drinks and were not seen when consumed any one of them.
During the study, the researchers exposed six mice to caffeine-mixed alcohol throughout adolescence and monitored their behavioral changes. They also found that persistent exposure to the caffeinated alcohol caused the mice to become increasingly active, which was similar to the reaction witnessed in the mice given cocaine. They also identified an elevated level of a protein called FosB, which is a marker of the long-term changes in the brain chemistry and is found among people who abuse drugs like cocaine.
Moreover, it was found that mice exposed to caffeine-mixed alcohol during adolescence were less sensitive to the pleasurable and rewarding effects of cocaine as they grew older.
Road to recovery
Besides triggering a number of physical and mental health problems, exposure to addictive substances can also prove disastrous to the patients’ family, society and nation. Moreover, there is a close relationship between substance abuse and mental disorders. Considering the above negative consequences of substance abuse, it is essential to seek treatment to ensure early recovery.
If you or your loved one is struggling to get rid of an addiction to substances like drugs, alcohol, etc., get in touch with the Texas Substance Abuse Helpline to access information on the substance abuse treatment programs in Texas. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-971-2658 or chat online to get help in locating the finest substance abuse treatment centers in Texas.