Energy drinks with alcohol stir fears in parents

16 years ago

    Parents and community members throughout the country are concerned about energy drinks on the market that mix high doses of caffeine with alcohol. It’s the fine print that worries people: Tilt: 8 percent alcohol; Sparks Plus: 7 percent alcohol; Joose: 9.9 percent alcohol.     In a survey last year by Mintel International Group, a market research firm, 31 percent of 1,903 youths 12 to 17 years old said they regularly drink energy drinks such as the nonalcoholic Full Throttle, No Fear, and Adrenaline Rush. That’s a hefty chunk of the $3.2 billion energy-drink industry that year.
    Michele Simon of the alcohol industry watchdog Marin Institute in San Rafael, Calif., co-authored a report earlier this year “Alcohol, Energy Drinks, and Youth: A Dangerous Mix.”
    To her, the alcohol industry is marketing energy drinks to the youngest drinkers, employing things like MySpace.com and other cyberspace tools to show young people consuming energy drinks.
    Add the alcohol to the energy drinks, she said, and it provides a young consumer an enticing “bridge” from soda pop and nonalcoholic energy drinks to alcohol mixes.
    Locally, Maine Attorney General Steve Rowe recently urged the federal Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to investigate the ingredients of the Sparks and Sparks Plus alcoholic energy drinks. In an article printed February in the Portland Press Herald, Rowe noted that “Caffeine is a stimulant that can mask feelings of intoxication, giving drivers the false impression that they can drink more and function normally… this is a recipe for disaster.” (http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/story_pf.php?id=172205&ac=PHnws). In fact, in 2006 a Portland man was murdered by his friend after the two drank more than 10 drinks that mixed vodka and Red Bull, a sweet, highly caffeinated non-alcohol energy drink.
    Alcohol energy drinks look very similar to non-alcohol energy drinks, thereby presenting a serious problem: a way to sneak alcohol past unsuspecting parents. “Kids sometimes don’t even consider it alcohol, says the Marin Institute’s Ms. Simon. Moreover, they don’t understand they’re mixing drugs too — alcohol as a depressant, caffeine as a stimulant. The caffeine may mask alcohol intoxication because of its energy boost, but motor skills and other functions are just as impaired by the alcohol.”
    What can parents do? Talk to your children about the dangers of mixing alcohol and caffeine, emphasize the importance of waiting to drink alcohol until age 21, and monitor what your children are doing and drinking.
    Unless otherwise marked, quotes in this article are taken from a piece written by Robin Erb printed in the Toledo Blade (http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070813/NEWS08/70813005).
    This article was brought to you by Aroostook Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP), a countywide substance abuse prevention collaborative. For more information about ASAP and its prevention efforts contact Clare Desrosiers, project director at 521-2408 or Allison Heidorn, project assistant at 498-2979.