March isn't just a time to celebrate spring...for college students across the country, it means a week long vacation from school pressures. And for most, that includes drinking.
It turns out that a relatively new and potentially dangerous phenomenon is showing up among spring breakers. Many are getting high on what sounds like an innocent combination, unaware that it could be deadly. The trend? Mixing alcohol with an energy drink...like Red Bull.
"Right here we got Red Bull, the only thing we drink at spring break," said Ben Sirmons, a student on spring break.
"The reason they use it is because it gives them a pick up with the Red Bull and then the alcohol hitting them almost simultaneously since it's thinning out the bloodstream. Kids love it, it's a quick way to wake up and get drunk fast," said Dustin Medlin, a bartender at Hub City Brewery.
Justin says he knows the combination is risky, but his hands are tied. Customers are ordering Red Bull, which comes out of a machine like soda does, and they're also getting a shot of Jagermeister, and mixing it themselves.
The concern is that any time you combine an energy drink, which is heavy in stimulants, with alcohol...you could be flirting with disaster. "What you do by taking a stimulant you are fooling your brain into thinking you are not intoxicated, what happens is they flood their brain with alcohol and
the brain cannot respond quick enough. It really suffocates the brain and they can pass out, have brain damage or die," said psychologist Dr. George Schulz, PhD.
"It can give you that false sense of security that you're really more alert and have a heightened sense of well being, even though you're drinking alcohol which is bringing you down," said Chris Piel, MD with UMC. Dr. Piel says alcohol can kill anyway, so adding stimulants could just increase the odds against you.
By the way, the makers of Red Bull say there are no warning labels on their products because it is sold as an energy drink and IS not intended as a mixer for any drink with alcohol.
The bottom line is, it's not just the caffeine. There are other stimulants in these energy drinks, so when you mix them with alcohol, it's like playing with a witches brew, because we really don't know the effects. "I never recommend it. I'd rather them order a Jager straight up or a shot of basically anything else. But once they've ordered, we can't tell them no. So, we do serve it.," says Justin
There are no rules against serving it because there have been no studies yet on the effects of mixing energy drinks with alcohol...however, 2 deaths are currently under investigation by the Food and Drug Administration.