Alcohol and Caffeine: Why Drink?

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    The season of merriment and indulgence is upon us or maybe it never left us. Social gatherings are usually filled by all the sounds that accompany the taste of alcohol: the tinkling sounds of wine glasses, the fizzing sounds of something bubbly, and the popping sounds of bottles being uncorked. As all of these noises fill our heads, the question comes to mind: Why drink?


    The media is very quick to tell us about this study or that study that show some possible health benefits of a drink or two because these are messages we want to hear. Yes, one or two drinks per day might reduce your risk for a sudden cardiac event.1  We cling to that message as if it were a permission slip from a parent to excuse us from school because this school called life is so stressful and we could really use a mind-altering break. And with one or two drinks, we do experience euphoria as if playing hooky from life for just a moment in time.

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    Later we learn that playing hooky with a drink in hand has some consequences too. Well not just “some”, there are quite a few problems that alcohol is known to cause. Men should not ignore the fact that alcohol causes erectile dysfunction and testicular atrophy. And women need to be aware that alcohol increases the risk of infertility and spontaneous abortions. So although we’d love to avoid a big heart attack, there are many among us that also cherish the act of reproduction and might not want to jeopardize our sex life.


    If sex is not that big of deal, then maybe cancer is big enough deal to consider leading a sober life. Yes, alcohol is linked to esophageal, stomach, pancreatic, liver and colon cancer. That widespread effect on the gastrointestinal system is directly caused by the toxic effects that alcohol has on cell and organ health. And the consequences of alcohol consumption don’t stop with that; the brain and nervous system also can become permanently damaged from the use of alcohol. So even though we feel good about playing hooky and possibly avoiding a big heart attack, we risk having a lot more problems than we might have bargained for as a result of alcohol use.


    Yet, we still cling to that permission slip because drinking is just too darn fun and social. But at the end of the night, when our sleep has fallen victim to the effects of alcohol and we lie awake in bed; the question remains: Why drink?




    When you wake up each morning, you might be greeted by a certain aroma in the air. The smell of coffee brewing triggers the sudden urge to have a cup or two. Each cup of coffee contains 65-120mg of caffeine. That caffeine stimulates the brain which might be especially important after a fitful night tossing and turning because that glass or two of an alcohol-containing beverage has disrupted our sleep. And the caffeine is especially important to those of us who have a daily caffeine habit and are starting to feel the peak effects of caffeine withdrawals 24 hours since our last cup of coffee. As we savor each sip, we ponder a simple question: Why drink?


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    A cup or two might seem innocent enough until that daily ritual leads to problems with sleep, mood, dependency and withdrawal symptoms. Some drink caffeinated beverages all day long just to maintain an even keel much like an alcoholic will drink all day just to keep from getting the jitters.


    In a recent report, experts have sounded the alarm that caffeinated energy drinks are becoming a growing problem.2 Increasingly numbers of people are experiencing caffeine intoxication. The young people are especially vulnerable because the brain is still developing and they have very little tolerance. Yet, the commercial market sees money to be made especially when no one seems to be asking the question: why drink?




    Many addiction experts see caffeine and alcohol as the two biggest gateways to a life of chemical dependency and possibly other types of drugs like marijuana, tobacco and opioids.3 But despite the problems the lie at the bottom of that glass, bottle or cup, we still drink. Why stop now? We like the stimulant in the morning and the tranquilizer at night. Roller-coasters are more fun right? It’s no wonder why we experience problems sleeping, days filled with pain, waves of anxiety, bouts with headaches, relentless gnawing at the pit of our stomachs and an assortment of other health problems. Life on a roller-coaster might be fun, but it does take its toll. So why drink after all?


    1.      BMJ 2010;341:c6077; Patterns of alcohol consumption and ischaemic heart disease in culturally divergent countries: the Prospective Epidemiological Study of Myocardial Infarction (PRIME)

    2.      Drug Alcohol Depend. 2009 Jan 1;99(1-3):1-10.; Caffeinated energy drinks--a growing problem.

    3.      J Addict Med. 2010 Jun;4(2):74-80; Increased alcohol consumption, nonmedical prescription drug use, and illicit drug use are associated with energy drink consumption among college students.

Published On: October 15, 2012