Monday, February 7, 2011

Energy Drinks: Chug, Sip or Avoid?

I trust all you Packers fans are recovering from your celebratory debauchery.  Likewise, I hope that all you Steelers fans have recovered after drowning your sorrows in your favorite libation.  Out of curiosity, did anyone mix an energy drink w/their alcohol?  I'm not talking about a simple rum & Coke(r).  You know what I mean, it's all the rage these days. 

Energy drinks are those concoctions full of caffeine, vitamins, herbal supplements, and often sugar.  The problem that the FDA is most concerned about is the amount of caffeine in these energy drinks, especially those that already contain alcohol (but which have since been pulled off the market as of last November), since the former can mask the effects of the latter.

For comparison's sake, typical colas contain 34-54mg of caffeine per 12 ounce serving, and are limited to 71mg per 12 ounce serving by the FDA.  A 6 ounce cup off coffee (obviously not brewed at Starbucks given the small volume!) typically contains 77-150mg of caffeine.  However, energy drinks have been tested at up to 500+mg per serving!  The lower volume "shots" test out at 100-350mg of caffeine in each 1-2 ounce serving.  Imagine chugging a half dozen of those!

So who hasn't consumed a full pot of coffee while pulling an all-nighter or after being on call for 24-36 hours?  Remember how miserable you felt?  Imagine adding excessive amounts of alcohol to that situation.  The problem with mixing large amounts of caffeine with alcohol is that it can potentially alter your interpretion of your true state of inebriation, allowing you to become even more drunk than you would normally get, possibly reaching a state of "wide-awake drunkeness" as pointed out in a commentary published in JAMA

Now, I'm all for individual rights and minimal governmental intrusion but it seems to me that if we limit our colas to 71mg of caffeine, perhaps we should limit our energy drinks to the same.  Or raise the caffeine limit of our colas to 500+mg per serving.  At least we should be consistent as we educate our patients on what to drink when.  Just remember to limit your consumption.  And have someone else drive you home.