Orange light: be attentive
Alcohol and coffee
When consumed in moderate amounts, there is no danger in mixing alcohol and coffee. However, people often drink coffee with alcohol for other reasons, in particular when they have drunk too much alcohol and are hoping to mask the symptoms of intoxication.
Studies have demonstrated the antagonistic effects of caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine will slightly attenuate the effects of inebriation and allow a person to perform certain psychomotor tasks. That being said, drinking coffee after drinking alcohol in no way restores all the faculties necessary to drive a motor vehicle. In fact, the amount of coffee consumed has absolutely no effect on blood alcohol content.
Vigilance is therefore called for when drinking alcohol with coffee since the combination may have unpleasant consequences, particularly with regard to driving or other activities requiring full control of all faculties.
Alcohol and energy drinks
In recent years, soft drinks have been losing market share to energy drinks, which people are drinking for the same reason they drink coffee, i.e. their stimulant effect. While rumours that these drinks owe their kick to bull sperm or urine are merely urban legends, they do indeed contain taurine, glucuronolactone and about as much caffeine as there is in a cup of coffee, i.e. 80 mg.
But it’s the way people drink them that makes energy drinks very different from coffee. Energy drinks are drunk cold and packaged for drinking quickly, which means the effects of the caffeine are felt much sooner than with coffee, which is generally served hot and sipped more slowly.
- Impact on drinking
Given that people who mix alcohol with energy drinks often do so to mask the unpleasant taste of the alcohol, we can expect that such people will drink a greater amount more quickly and drink more on each occasion. It has also been reported20 that people who mix alcohol with energy drinks tend to drink more than those who don’t mix the two: about 5.8 drinks compared to 4.5. Similarly, the mixers report drinking an average maximum of 8.3 drinks per occasion, compared to 6.1 for the non-mixers. Mixers are also twice as likely to get drunk every week: 1.4 occasions, compared to 0.73 for the non-mixers.
Another warning needs to be issued about the risk of dehydration when mixing alcohol and energy drinks. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, meaning they keep water from being reabsorbed by the kidneys and cause more water to be eliminated. This creates a chain reaction: the more alcohol you drink, the thirstier you feel. The real danger lies in continuing to drink alcohol – instead of water – which increases thirst and dehydration.
At parties and where people are dancing it also tends to get particularly warm, and the combination of alcohol and energy drinks further increases dehydration. “Morning after” symptoms – headache, general discomfort, major fatigue – are all related to dehydration.
People should be extremely careful when purchasing energy drinks, because some are already premixed with alcohol. As a result, those who have no intention of mixing alcohol with their energy drink may end up doing so inadvertently. Also, some companies that produce this new kind of alcoholic beverage are packaging them to look like the – alcoholic versions.
Alcohol and gambling
There is a causal relationship between alcohol abuse and pathological gambling. There are more pathological gamblers among those who drink abusively than among the general population. Similarly, pathological gamblers are more likely to drink abusively than the general population.
Abusive drinking and pathological gambling are both addictive behaviours that indicate a loss of control and involve obsessive thoughts about alcohol and gambling. Even when they are aware of the harmful consequences of their habits, addicts continue their abusive behaviour.
Among both alcohol abusers and pathological gamblers, changes can be observed in the brain centres responsible for pleasure and emotions. Both behaviours are associated with a disturbance in the neurobiological mechanisms related to impulse control and reward.
Clinical studies have underscored the limits of genetic explanations and stressed the need to examine contextual factors as well. The comorbidity of alcohol abuse and pathological gambling are explained by the fact that abusive drinking disinhibits pathological gambling. People commonly gamble while drinking alcohol.
People with a high blood alcohol level are thus less able to evaluate the real chance of winning and are less likely to remember past losses. These contextual explanations complement the observations of brain activity.
People who enjoy gambling should avoid drinking alcohol at the same time. The combination of alcohol and gambling increases the risks of gambling inappropriately, i.e. pathologically.