My husband and I knew a woman in college who used to drink coffeetea. A whip-smart pre-med student, no one would ever have pegged her as a risk-taker or a rebel. She was simply a dedicated, academically-minded woman intent on defying her body's natural sleep cycles so she could ace her chemistry tests. So on the nights before major exams, she'd brew herself a strong cup of black coffee, and instead of lightening it with milk or sweetening it with sugar, she'd stick a tea bag in it. A few minutes later, she'd down the tar-black sludge and get the caffeine-induced buzz she needed to hit the books. Let me also point out that she weighed about 90 pounds, so it didn't take long for the home-brewed serum to do its job.
And remember Jolt from the 1980s? It was like soda on steroids. All innocent-looking until WHAM, the caffeine hit you and you became all Robin Williams-esque, buzzing about talking nonsense, unable to sit still. One of my high school friends used to drink it, and he was one of the smartest people I knew. Again, though, not a risk taker.
So this article yesterday fascinated me:
Health researchers have identified a surprising new predictor for risky behavior among teenagers and young adults: the energy drink. Super-caffeinated energy drinks, with names like Red Bull, Monster, Full Throttle and Amp, have surged in popularity in the past decade. About a third of 12- to 24-year-olds say they regularly down energy drinks, which account for more than $3 billion in annual sales in the United States...It's scary enough that these drinks are selling like hotcakes, but what's most interesting is the correlation between their consumption and the risk profile of the imbibers. (It's important to emphasize that we're talking correlation here, not causation.) The article cites a March study that found a link between energy drinks, athletics, and risky, "toxic jock" behavior such as "unprotected sex, substance abuse and violence."
And, interestingly, it's not solely about the caffeine. Apparently a 12-ounce brewed Starbucks coffee has 250 mg of caffeine and a 12-ounce Red Bull has 116 mg, or less than half. One theory is that cold energy drinks are consumed more quickly and therefore may affect the system more intensely than a hot cup of coffee.
College students are also starting to mix energy drinks with alcohol. A separate study found "that students who mixed energy drinks with alcohol got drunk twice as often as those who consumed alcohol by itself and were far more likely to be injured or require medical treatment while drinking." The combination of alcohol + caffeine may make people think they're less drunk than they actually are.
Is Red Bull the new gateway drug? Or is it just this generation's version of coffeetea?