Alcohol and energy drinks
They may make us feel like we have more get up and go but mixing alcohol with energy drinks can be a dangerous combination.
Energy drinks are marketed as a stimulant, and contain ingredients such as caffeine, taurine and vitamins. They can also contain high levels of sugar. So why is it dangerous to mix them with alcohol?
Energy drinks can mask the sedative effects of alcohol, making people less aware of how much they’ve had to drink.1 The very high levels of caffeine in energy drinks work against the drowsiness effects of alcohol in what researchers describe as ‘wide awake drunk’.2 This means we are likely to miss the signals our bodies usually send when we’ve had too much to drink and could end up drinking more alcohol than we normally would.
Evidence shows that if we combine alcohol and energy drinks we may soon experience negative physical and psychological side effects – more so than if you drank alcohol on its own.3,4
The stimulant effects of energy drinks and the lowered inhibition caused by drinking alcohol can mean we are more likely to do things we wouldn’t normally do, and take serious risks we wouldn’t take if we were sober.
As well as the calories in alcohol, the high calorie content in many energy drinks can lead to weight gain if we drink them regularly.7 A small can of energy drink contains up to 30g of sugar8 Many alcoholic drinks are also high in calories, so a 50ml measure of spirits, mixed with energy drink, contains 122 calories.9
To keep the risks to our health at a low level, the UK Chief Medical Officers recommend we drink no more than 14 units a week on a regular basis, and if you do drink as much as this, spread the drinks across the week with several drink-free days every week.
Arming yourself with strategies and tips can help you or a loved one take small steps towards big results.
 Lalanne, L., Lutz, P.E. and Paille, F. (2017). Acute impact of caffeinated alcoholic beverages on cognition: A systematic review. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 76, 188-194.
 Roemer, A. and Stockwell, T. (2017). Alcohol mixed with energy drinks and risk of injury: A systematic review. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, 78(2), pp.175-183.
 Roemer, A. and Stockwell, T. (2017). Alcohol mixed with energy drinks and risk of injury: A systematic review. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 78(2), 175-183.
 Holubcikova, J., Kolarcik, P., Geckova, A.M., Joppova, E., van Dijk, J.P. and Reijneveld, S.A. (2017). Young adolescents who combine alcohol and energy drinks have a higher risk of reporting negative behavioural outcomes. International journal of public health, 62(3), pp.379-386.
 Pennay, A., Peacock, A., Droste, N., Miller, P., Bruno, R., Wadds, P., Tomsen, S. and Lubman, D. (2018). What do we know about alcohol mixed with energy drink (AmED) use in Australia? Expanding local evidence. Public Health Research and Practice, 28(3), 1-9.
 Droste, N., Peacock, A., Bruno, R., Pennay, A., Zinkiewicz, L., Lubman, D.I. and Miller, P. (2017). Combined use of alcohol and energy drinks: Dose relationship with self-reported physiological stimulation and sedation side effects. Addictive Behaviors, 71, 68-74.
 Malik, V.S., Pan, A., Willett, W.C. and Hu, F.B. (2013). Sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 98(4), 1084-1102.
 Keaver, L., Gilpin, S., Fernandes da Silva, J., Buckley, C. and FoleyNolan, C. (2017). Energy drinks available in Ireland: a description of caffeine and sugar content, Public Health Nutrition, 20(9), 1534-1539.
Last Reviewed: 22nd February 2021
Next Review due: 22nd February 2024