Source: Kids Health

Every year there seems to be a new trend that becomes insanely popular among teens and this year does not disappoint!  Currently, teens are drawn to the idea of combining alcohol with caffeine or other stimulants to reach that ultimate feeling of intoxication.   Since energy drinks were introduced to the public, they have become a staple in the daily diet of many teens.  The Alabama Parent Network reports that thirty one percent of teens ages 12-17 years old consume energy drinks on a regular basis. Unfortunately, energy drinks are not a substitute for your average soda.  In fact, a typical soda has 60 ml of caffeine while energy drinks have around 160 ml of caffeine. Combining an energy drink with alcohol is like consuming a bottle of wine with several cups of coffee (by the way, coffee contains at least 100 ml of caffeine)! Pediatricians report that consuming over 100 ml caffeine is dangerous for the average teen and adding chocolate, sodas, or medication can be deadly.  In a news article written by CBS corespondent, Maria Castillo, she interviewed a child psychologist who found that messages about caffeine often start at home and are hard to break.  As teens get older, they take the messages they learn about caffeine and mix it with alcohol to create a lethal concoction called a Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages or CABs.

Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages

Source: Daily Mail

According to the CDC,  Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages or CABs are “premixed beverages that combine alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants.”   Although CABs are no longer available on the market in the US, since they were found unsafe by the FDA, many teens have discovered that mixing alcohol and caffeinated drinks are an effective way to reach euphoria. One alcoholic mixture that has become popular at parties is the combination of Red Bull energy drink and vodka.  Since prom is around the corner, teens risk being exposed to this alcoholic combination and face additional dangers.  Check out the graphic below of some of the potential dangers that teens face when drinking CABs.

Dangers of CABs

Why are CABs Dangerous?

According to the Journal of Pediatrics, teens who consume CABs are four times more likely to develop a alcohol disorder than teens who consume alcohol not mixed with caffeine. Since high doses of caffeine mask the brain’s ability to know when the body reaches intoxication, teens tend to drink more and reach dangerous levels of intoxication quicker.  Because many teens are unaware that they are intoxicated, they feel wide awake drunk.  Another danger of these alcoholic energy drinks is that it causes the person to want to drink more which can lead to alcohol poisoning. Also, cardiologists have found that large amounts of caffeine can cause an erratic heartbeat and even a heart attack.  So mixing a combination of uppers and downers can be dangerous for teens whether it includes serious injury, illness, or death.  I think the quote by the author of the article, Teens Who Mix Alcohol and Energy Drinks May be More Likely to Develop Alcohol Use Disorders, summed it up best,”maybe Red Bull gives you wings…but you don’t want them to end up giving you a halo too.”

Why Should School Counselors Be Concerned About Underage Drinking?

There are several reasons why school counselors should be aware of the risks around underage drinking.  Here are a few statistics you need to know:

1.  Underage drinking contributes to poor grades and absenteeism in school.
2.  Students who drink are more likely to engage in fighting.
3.  Underage drinking contributes to legal issues for students.
4.  Students who drink are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors.
5.  Students who drink are at risk for sexual assault.
6.  Students who drink are at a higher risk for suicide.
7.  Underage drinking contributes to alcohol poisoning and possible death.

What are Some Practical Ways to Educate Students?

We may have limited influence when teens are already drinking, but we can educate them about the practical dangers of combining alcohol and caffeine and what do when they are faced with a possible dangerous situation. Below are some strategies/information you may want to share with your students around prom season.

1. How do you know if you are becoming a problem drinker?  Give kids the link to the alcohol self test to find out if they are binge drinkers.

    Alcohol Self Test for Teens – Teens have a question about their consumption?  Have them take this self test to find out if their consumption is abusive.

2. How does alcohol impact the body?  Here is information to show the virtual impacts of alcohol on the body and brain.
          Alcohol and the body – Show teens virtually how alcohol impacts the body and brain.

3. Educate students on a blackout and how they can identify a friend who may be experiencing one at a party or on the beach.

          Blackouts – Dr. Donal Sweeney says that blackouts are unpredictable, can occur in first  
          time drinkers, may last for hours, and takes little alcohol to occur.  In fact, a person
          experiencing an alcoholic blackout may seem normal (walking, talking, or standing).
         The problem, according to Dr. Sweeney, is that alcohol prevents the formation of memories
          and leaves the person “unconscious”. Also, Dr. Sweeney found in his research that females are

          most susceptible to blackouts.

Blackout Quiz– How do you know if a person is experiencing a blackout?  There is a simple test you can give to find out…

  • First, ask the person to tell you three simple words and have him or her repeat them. 
  • Next, distract the person by talking about something else for five minutes. 
  • Last, ask the person the same words again.  If he or she cannot remember, the person may be experiencing a blackout.

4. Share the BAC (Blood Alcohol Calculator) to show them their alcoholic limit.

          Blood Alcohol Calculator – Inform students who their blood alcohol level is determined by
          their physiology and gender.

5. Show students what drinks contain the most and least amount of alcohol.

         Cocktail Calculator – Before consuming a drink, calculate how much alcohol is in that drink.

6. Talk to students about the dangers of alcohol poisoning and what to do if they suspect someone is experiencing it.

        What is alcohol poisoning? Alcohol poisoning occurs when high levels of alcohol suppress the
         respiratory and nervous system so the body tries to rid itself of those toxins.

Signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Mental confusion, stupor, or coma.
  • Vomiting
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Low body temperature

If the student suspects someone has alcohol poisoning, he or she should act immediately and not wait until the signs appear.  There are five steps one may follow:
1.  Don’t assume the person is asleep and try to wake him or her up by calling out his/her name, pulling his/her ear or cheek, or pinching the arm.
2.  Turn the person on his/her side to prevent asphyxiation from vomiting.
3.  Check out the skin color and temperature of the person.  If they appear blue, pale,  clammy, or cold, call 911 immediately!!
4.  If the person’s breathing is irregular or slow (less than 10 breaths a minute), call 911!
5.  Even if the person is not showing any distinct signs, don’t guess and call 911.

Source: Blackouts and Alcohol Poisoning

7. Don’t be afraid to call 911!  Although not every state has this law on its books, many states will not arrest underage minors for calling emergency services if they have a friend who is facing a medical emergency.  

States That Allow for Emergency Services to Assist Underage Minors Without Legal Action

8. If a student decides he or she does not want to drink, but will be in a high pressured situation then they to practice refusal. Below are two tools you can use to help students build up their confidence to resist the temptation to drink.

             Build Drink Refusal Skills  – Help students build their ability to refuse alcohol due to peer

Learn How to Say When
Drink Refusal Skill Tool
Script Your No Worksheet

9, Educate yourself as a professional about alcohol so you are up to date on the latest information!

           Power of Drinking Toolkit for Educators

10. Educate your parents about how to help their students celebrate graduation  and summer party safely.

           Power of Youth Toolkit

11. Educate parents and students about the myths of changing the drinking age to 18 in your state.

          Support 21


I hope this post has been eye opening about the dangers of alcohol and caffeine.  For more information about teens and alcohol check out these other posts.

Extreme Binge Drinking

The New Prom Culture


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