What Are You Drinking?
Flavored malt beverages that come in brightly colored cans. Hard alcohol in packaging that looks like a child’s fruit drink pouch. Vodka that tastes like marshmallows, mangoes, whipped cream or cookie dough. With these trends, young people are being tempted by sweet, pleasantly-flavored alcoholic beverages that can be mistaken by adults for their non-alcoholic counterparts because of packaging (and therefore hidden in plain sight) or easily disguised by pouring into other drink containers.
The quick buzz - A potential overdose
Of particular concern is that many of these drinks have a high alcohol content and therefore pose a greater danger of intoxication and alcohol poisoning/overdose. Many flavored malt beverages come in 24-ounce cans with an alcohol-by-volume (ABV) content of 12%, or the equivalent of almost 5 standard drinks per can. For those who don’t understand this, the consumption of more than one container can result in a dangerous overdose.
The oftentimes sweet, pleasant taste of flavored hard alcohol (or spirits), such as vodka, can also result in consuming higher than safe amounts in a short amount of time. One U.S. university recently banned possession of hard alcohol in their on-campus housing during summer session even for those over 21 years of age because 100% of emergency room admissions the previous year were related to consumption of spirits.
Combining alcohol and energy drinks
Another potential danger lies in the combining of alcohol and energy drinks. The sale of pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks was banned in Washington State in 2010 when cases of alcohol poisoning were tied to their use. However, people still continue to mix their own.
It is important to understand the risks of mixing a stimulant with a depressant. Caffeine and other stimulants can mask the effects of the alcohol, making it harder to tell when you’ve had too much to drink.
“Mixing Alcohol With Energy Drinks: Here’s some stuff worth knowing,” is a brochure produced by the Liquor and Cannabis Board in partnership with researchers from the University of Washington Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. It provides more information on this topic, including how to reduce your risks and how to recognize alcohol poisoning. You can access it by clicking on the link in the title.
Know what you are drinking
The best way to be safe when drinking alcoholic beverages is to know what you are drinking, know how to count your drinks accurately by understanding what constitutes a standard drink, and drink in moderation. Never accept a drink if you don’t know what’s in it.
To learn more about calculating standard drinks, click on this website: Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and Your Health. Remember, it’s not just the size of the drink, but also the alcohol content (ABV) of the drink.