Energy Drinks and Hospitalizations Checklist: How to Ask The Right Questions

It’s happened again: someone was admitted to the hospital after consuming an energy drink. Reporters covering the story warn readers about the dangers of energy drinks…something is missing. In this post, I’ll review real headlines about energy drink to demonstrate how the omission of a few minor details hurts consumers, as well as the scientists who study energy drinks.

If you read a news story about someone being hospitalized because of a vegetable, you’d have some questions.

On the surface, the mere idea sounds ridiculous.

“Hospitalized…because of a VEGETABLE? People eat veggies all the time without dying, why would someone go to the hospital?”

In fact, leafy green vegetables were the number one source of foodborne illnesses from 1998-2008. Moreover, this hypothetical news story is a perfect example of how asking the right questions can save lives.

When someone is hospitalized because of a vegetable, scientists and doctors are able to piece together the clues and figure out whether or not to issue a recall, if so, what food and even what brand and lot numbers. The end result is information which saves people from eating something that could hurt them. If only we could do the same thing for energy drinks.
(Hint: we are not)

When it comes to energy drink-related hospitalizations, we are not asking the right questions. There are several examples of real energy drink news stories where small but critical details were omitted. Not only does this hurt consumers, but it also hurts scientists who desperately need this data to study the health effects of energy drinks.

The good news is these missing critical details can be summed up in just five questions.
Let me walk you through these five questions and why they matter so much, using real news stories about energy drink-related hospitalizations.

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Ironman and Hulk demonstrate why mixing alcohol and caffeine is so bad

Attention all Marvel and/or science nerds: Can you help me spread this message? You know that scene in “Avengers 2: Age of Ultron”, where Hulk is destroying a city under the influence of Scarlet Witch? Ironman in the Hulkbuster suit tries to punch Hulk out so he can’t cause anymore damage,”Go to sleep! Go to sleep! Go to sleep!” But that doesn’t work, so the ruckus continues…

To refresh your memory…



Passing out when you’ve had too much alcohol is your body’s way of making sure you don’t die. When you have caffeine, it overrides this built-in safety mechanism.


Mixing alcohol and caffeine isn’t new – there were Irish Coffee concoctions long before Vodka-Red Bull and Jager Bombs. But this combination messes with the senses – it can make someone feel like they’re “not that drunk”, so they will be more likely to keep drinking or drive under the influence. This is how people get hurt.

Not to mention, when you get admitted to the hospital because of alcohol poisoning from mixing caffeine and alcohol, these count as “energy drink hospitalizations” and you ruin it for the rest of us who DO drink caffeinated beverages responsibly! Not cool! See the “DAWN” report –> and this letter to Time Magazine…

If you absolutely must have some caffeine because otherwise you’ll be too tired to party, you must give yourself AT LEAST a 30 minute window between your last sips of caffeine and your first sips of alcohol. The caffeine will stay in your system for another 4 hours or so, but caffeine takes 20 minutes to take effect so at least you’ll feel that caffeine buzz before you start getting buzzed.

To learn more, check out this article by Caffeine Informer.  Caffeine Informer has compiled all the research studies and reports that helped us arrive at the conclusion bartenders have known ages ago: Giving a drunk person coffee just makes them a wide-awake drunk. It does not make them any less impaired (or obnoxious).

To learn more about the science of alcohol, see this awesome video by ACS Reactions:

Want more science-nerd meets comic-nerd meets caffeine-lover posts? Let me know in the comments below. Shout-outs on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are always appreciated. 



Four Loko vs 5Hour Energy: Book Excerpt of the Week 

Four Loko was dangerous WHEN USED AS DIRECTED! In my book I review life-threatening events involving Four Loko and 5Hour Energy. This question of product liability versus personal responsibility is a big issue, and one that needs to be addressed in EVERY news story or hospitalization involving caffeinated beverages and supplements.

For more of the discussion on Four Loko versus 5Hour Energy…

Get your copy of “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star-A Guide to Energy Drinks: How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely” on Amazon