Energy Drinks & Alcohol: A Monster Mix of Madness

alcopops_postcard.gifHere we go again…Which drinks at left are benign?

We’ve been down this road before about market confusion, cardiac cocktails of caffeine and the inherent dangers of energy drinks and alcohol that have once again claimed the life of a teen at a Florida party, so I’m going to update my list of links at the end for everyone to get up to speed (pardon the expression) and prevent even more teen tragedies from transpiring.

Energy drinks by themselves have had their share of jolt and crash overdose victims, and tossing alcohol into the mix ups the ante on young bodies, yet we still hear industry responses claiming the fatalities are ‘fueled by speculation,’ as students pipe in with analysis of energy drinks wondering, ‘what about Rum & Coke, that’s mixing a stimulant and a depressant, what’s the diff?”

Plenty. Any doctors, public health pros, or feds wanna take this one?

As we’ve reiterated repeatedly and the caffeine database concurs, energy drinks pack a wallop much higher than soda by far. Just ask the ‘voice of the victims.’

Watchdogs and advocacy groups lobby hard to ‘prove the point’ before any more tragedies occur, while media reports range from squishy and subjective to overblown sensationalism making it sound like corporations are out to kill our kids for a buck…

…Kids and parents are left scratching their heads trying to figure it all out.

ashley-ramnauth.jpgDoes it really matter WHICH toxic combo of caffeine, guarana, taurine, sugar in drinks and/or the plethora of additives/alcohol took this talented 16-year old teen honor student, Ashley Ramnauth?

Seems it only matters that she’s gone…

Ironic that this MySpace RIP tribute by a friend of hers flashes a montage of energy drinks as the music begins…

The 16-year old surfer girl who owns the MySpace (T-bone aka Traci) lists her favorite past times as “Boys, music, dancing, drinking, surfing, skating, late nights, parties, having fun.” Hopefully Traci will absorb the tragic fate of her friend Ashley, so she won’t brush off the gravity in her own encounters…

Whether fatalities show up from dehydration, cardiac impact, organ failure, coma-induced state or car accident due to false sense of sobriety, to me it adds up to the same thing…“Alcohol Laced Energy Drinks Spell Double Trouble.”

(See visual imparity evidence of reporter trying to ‘walk the line’ & an undercover sting/re: teen ease of access in this cbs video clip here)

I guess the short query for me is ‘why mess with a maybe?’

The stuff tastes like carbonated cough syrup to begin with, and if ‘toxicology experts’ can’t agree whether it’s the combo of high doses of stims or alcohol blends, it prompts the question, why even chance it?

But then, as we know, teens are all about ‘chancing it’…As our newest young Gen Y advisory board member, Vanessa Van Petten explains in her article, ‘Why Do Teens Drink’ here.

Inevitably, every time I report about the energy drink madness of concoctions like Sparks, where kids wonder ‘how much it would take to kill them’ goofing with fictitious calculators by body weight, or give kids the BCA real drunk driving calculator to interactively see for themselves where their body weight limits are, there’s a parent that nails me for ‘planting ideas’ or ‘aiding and abetting.’

I can only respond by saying, my stance is that ‘parents are not the enemy nor are kids’…to me, knowledge is power on both sides.

ANY amount of research and pragmatic advice that can be served up in a shot glass before hitting the preteen and teen years, so much the better…sift and sort what works and what doesn’t in any given situation!

Vanessa Van Petten mentioned she took some heat for giving teens ‘tips’ for ‘drinking/ ditching alcohol and dealing with peer pressure subversively using a wink and nod approach.

As much as I agree with parents’ comments in theory, (that self-actualized kids should take a strong indie stand and pushback accordingly) I can also speak from personal experience that even though that should be the ‘given/default’; sometimes social survival skills kick in and kids resort to EXACTLY the tricks Vanessa mentions in her piece to avoid calling attention to themselves.

In my own case, my dad was a ‘spook and a narc’ (in the Intelligence field, later heading up the Naval Investigative Svc. of the Pacific) so I was a ‘prime target’ for the ‘games people play’ on the teen scene. Kids would like nothing better than to ‘slip that goody two-shoes Sr. Class Prez a mickey’ …so needless to say, I had my guard up and my game face on loooooong into early adulthood.

Toss the drink in a plant…leave the cup behind en route to the next conversation…order something that ‘looks alcoholic but isn’t’…yah. I know, sounds lame.

But Vanessa makes some sense here…she’s not advocating FOR drinking, she’s giving kids tools to dodge it.

energydrinks.jpgUltimately, playing the blame game of personal vs. parental vs. corporate responsibility is NOT going to bring 16-year old Ashley back in the arms of her loved ones…

As youth AND adults, we ALL need accountability, ethics, policy levers, ingredients disclosure, and as much awareness/safety knowledge as we can muster. It’s a battle for the hearts and minds of kids, and of ALL consumers…amidst a no-holds barred media and marketing zeitgeist.

Highlights from this report by the Marin Institute an alcohol industry watchdog group, regarding energy drinks/alcohol marketed as ‘alcopops’ to snag teen market share:

Three-Point Plan for Targeting Youth

  1. Create brand confusion with nonalcoholic versions
  2. Provide a cheap alternative to mixing energy drinks with alcohol
  3. Deploy youth-friendly grassroots and viral marketing

The Exploding popularity of Energy Drinks

  • 500 new energy drink products introduced worldwide in 2006 (AJ: this is low; it was already up to 637 when I pulled data to counter-market in 2007, averaging one a day coming to market)
  • Energy drink sales = $3.2 billion (AJ: also outdated; projecting 10 billion in 2 yrs per Science Daily & industry itself)
  • 31 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds are regular consumers v. 22 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds (AJ: this has climbed too)

Last year 29 attorneys general agreed that these drinks pose a threat to youth and as Marin Institute’s policy pro Michele Simon said,

“The recommendations of the attorneys general echo our own,” said Simon. “The TTB should investigate the ingredients found in alcoholic energy drinks and determine whether the products are properly classified as malt beverages under federal law. The TTB should also take a closer look at the labeling and advertising practices associated with these youth-targeted drinks.”

Yep. But mixing alcohol into ‘regular’ energy drinks is still a huge trend that teens need to get clear about…as many report the ‘Red Bull & Vodka’ perpetuation despite damaging indicators and fatalities from same.

Parents and teens can do what they can to navigate these seas with smooth sailing, but it always comes down to poor choices when we run aground.

Forewarned is forearmed. It’s the best life-raft out there…

So…Here are some resources to add to your data pool:

Energy Drinks Primer/Core Health Concerns: Brown University Health Ed

YouTube MSN Report: Alcoholic Energy Drinks

Center on Alcohol Marketing & Youth: CAMY Fact Sheets

A Booze Buzz for TeenyBoppers?

Scary Enough for Ya? Alcoholic Energy Drinks

Alcohol, Energy Drinks & Youth, A Dangerous Mix

Blood/Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Calculator

News/Liability: Officials Target Alcoholic Energy Drink Ads (29 Attorneys General)

Energy Drink Snapshot (non-alcoholic)

How Do Energy Drinks Works?

Popular Energy Drinks Cause Tooth Erosion

Energy Drinks, Whey Protein & More: Dietary Supplements & Teen Athletes

Energy Fiend’s Caffeine Database (comparison/chart in oz/mg of A-Z beverages)

Idea Mapping: Effects of Caffeine

Energy Drink Common Ingredients/Glossary

NPR Podcast: The Buzz Over Energy Drinks

Shaping Youth’s Energy Drink Articles by Amy Jussel (tons of embedded data links)

Rockstar21 Rocks for Ditching Their Confusing Cans!

Hey, Kids, Your “Energy Drinks” Now Come With Alcohol!

Maxed Out on Energy Drinks? Diet Pepsi Max Says Wake Up People!

Sugary Sodas Falter, Now Caffeine & Sodium Rule

Peer Driven Junk Food Allure & What’s Cool to Kids

Cocaine In A Can

For others interested in alcohol marketing masquerading as pop, Marin Institute is a wealth of information on these ‘alcopop’ tactics, complete with an advocacy lever to take action, and youth orgs that take charge.

Heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Ashley Ramnauth, may her untimely death become a beacon of awareness for all ages…

Visual Credit: Palm Beach Post



  1. Merry Christmas!Hope you has a good day!If you have the time, Welcome to my Web

  2. dude that’s sick i would love to try it. Now the search begins for a place around here that sells it
    .-= VIV Energy Drink´s last blog ..Hello world! =-.

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