This week I had the opportunity to sit down with Rebecca Burgess, the Assistant Director of Residence Life, to talk about energy drinks.
LH: Hi, Rebecca, what is your personal experience with energy drinks?
RB: Personally, I get all of my caffeine from coffee, and that is it. Back when I was in high school was just when they were getting popular. My best friend’s dad was a heart surgeon at the time, and he told us the horror stories of heart failure and attacks he had seen attached to them, so I stayed away.
LH: What have you seen from other people who normally drink them?
RB: As far as just normal energy drinks, the effects that I have observed personally are not that large, though there are some European countries in which they are completely outlawed because of the health effects. The major issues I have seen in the last year or so have been attached to energy drinks with alcohol.
LH: What have you seen?
RB: Whenever there is a student that has to go to the hospital for anything, the police call me to attend to them. Over the past year, I have attended quite a few bedsides with students on the edge from alcohol poisoning due to drinks like Four Loko.
LH: What is particularly dangerous about those types of drinks?
RB: There are a few things that combine to make such drinks really dangerous. Two are the size and alcohol content. They are 24 oz cans with 12 percent ABV, which means that they have the alcohol content of four to five standard drinks. They also have as much caffeine as three to four cans of coke. When you put these high concentrations of chemicals together, they do crazy things to the body. Caffeine is an “upper” drug and alcohol is a “downer,” so when you take them together, the caffeine speeding you up cancels how the alcohol would usually slow you down, making it really likely that you drink too much. In addition, they come in sweet flavors that are easy to drink a lot of.
LH: What do all of these things cause?
RB: In the end, the high alcohol content will give alcohol poisoning, but the combination with caffeine makes it harder for you to tell that you are drinking way too much and can change how alcohol poisoning presents itself, making it harder to recognize.
LH: What is the major message that you want to get out to the students?
RB: I understand that at this time of the semester, everyone either is trying to stay awake or relax. Caffeine does a great job on the former, and many people turn to alcohol for the latter. Both of those things are understandable, but mixing them together produces dangerous, even life-threatening consequences, and it doesn’t take much to put yourself at risk.
Wellness Tip of the Week: Check out the Alcohol and Tobacco Awareness Event on the Mall Friday from 1 – 4 p.m. to learn about the health risks of both. Also, you can trade a cigarette package for a $5 Cap Bar card and get free candy from Rec Sports.