Addiction in Society

Addiction—the thematic malady for our society—entails every type of psychological and societal problem

Health Alert on Caffeine and Alcohol - We're All Gonna Die!

Beware - Irish coffee can kill you, according to prestigious research center!

First, I have to confess - I split my time writing blogs for Psychology Today and the Huffington Post. (I switch between them - sort of like getting out of town before the sheriff arrives.)

While at the HuffPo site, I noticed posted at the top of the front page the following article: "Caffeinated Booze: Bad News for Bad Brews," by David Katz, M.D., who is the Director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center. The doctor reveals: "Combining alcohol and caffeine is -- in one word -- crazy. Don't do it! It has an excellent chance of hurting you, and a fairly good chance of killing you" (Dr. Katz's words - my bolding and italics). The good doctor then cites several recent news stories you may have seen. And this is in a way liberal Internet publication - wait until you look at some neo-Prohibitionist, Christian one.

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Wow! What an eye-opener! (And I don't mean that sarcastically.) For beginners, I need to confess - from time to time, I have drunk Irish Coffee. And that's not all - I sometimes drink Kahlua, a coffee-flavored liqueur.  (See photograph of a range of beverages that contain both alcohol and caffeine.) I - along with so many others - have been putting myself at risk for decades.

As I thought about it, I realized my combining these lethal beverages is only the tip of the iceberg. What about rum & Coke (colas are caffeinated) - a popular drink throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, where it's called Cuba Libre?

Or, think of this. Suppose you're the kind of person who goes to a bar and only has a drink or two (of whatever - beer, wine, a cocktail). Then you drink soft drinks. Suppose, doing that, you avoid Coke or Pepsi, and drink, say, Mountain Dew - that's over 55 milligrams of caffeine in a standard 12-ounce serving. In fact, virtually all of the leading soft-drinks contain large amounts of caffeine.

Now, if I understand Dr. Katz correctly, it would be better simply to drink straight alcohol all night, rather than to mix alcohol and caffeine-based drinks - which stands a "fairly good chance of killing you."

And what about all the people who have coffee - maybe several cups - after drinking alcohol with dinner - mabe several glasses?  Dr. Katz is right - that's crazy. Oh my God, we're all gonna die!

Who knew that so many people were endangering their lives, what with Irish coffee, Kahlua, rum & Coke, alternating alcohol with soft drinks, and after-dinner caffeine - and I haven't even gotten into such newly popular combinations as Red Bull and vodka. As a nation, we're committing suicide!

I know, I know - some of you think Dr. Katz and I are being alarmist. Well, I can't speak for Dr. Katz, but here's my answer.

It doesn't make any difference how many bad things you say about alcohol or caffeine - they're both horrible for you and you shouldn't be having either!

Did I hear someone bring up absinthe, which was banned in the United States and throughout Europe even before Prohibition was instituted here? Okay, who's the wise guy - or gal? You're going to claim that, despite the sordid reputation the anise-flavored spirit had (being consumed by the likes of Baudelaire and other misfits), no research has ever found it more dangerous than other alcoholic beverages. So, beginning in the 1990s, based on this lack of evidence, the production and sale of absinthe was reintroduced and there has been a resurgence of the beverage.

Well, you shouldn't be drinking any alcoholic beverages! One commenter on Dr. Katz's riveting post made exactly this crucial point: "Alcohol should be banned period!" (That's his exclamation point, not mine!) Kudos to you, bluemagoo.  Am I going too far in guessing that you've had some drinking issues of your own?

photoHere's bluemagoo's picture.

Whatever, Blue - if there's one thing that's wrong in America, it's the constant drip-drip-drip of the idea that alcohol can be good for you - researchers have even claimed alcohol can prolong your life!  This is actually indicated in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, while the most prestigious alcoholism journal in America recently published research that abstainers fare the worst among middle-aged people. (Of course, they're not speaking about alcoholics - everyone knows that!)  Next thing, they'll say coffee makes you live longer.  You see where this is going, don't you?  Exactly - caffeine and alcohol! 

Or this whole harm reduction thing, suggesting that you develop techniques for moderating consumption - like that crazy (Dr. Katz's word) alternation of alcoholic and soft drink strategy I mentioned above.

You can see why America is headed to hell in a handbasket!

The best way to get ahead in the addiction field is always to say bad things about substances - I don't care who says they're not especially harmful or how many people are going to drink or use them anyway. No professional has ever been penalized for saying anything bad - no matter how dire, alarmist, irrational, wrong, counterproductive - about any drug or alcohol.  I'm sure Dr. Katz didn't become director of a prestigious research center at Yale by telling people it was okay to drink or do anything bad!

So what if, from time to time, you're a little bit off? Absinthe wasn't re-legalized until almost a century after it was outlawed - who's around from then to know the difference?  Like I always say, the secret is to get out of town before the sheriff arrives.

Picture (no, not of blue magoo - the one above that) - MSNBC's Rachel Maddow tested alcoholic beverages that also contained caffeine.

we're jes crazy's all

well, since one in five of us have "a mental disorder", then we are either all just too crazy to make responsible choices ~pokes tongue firmly in cheek~ or we're just self medicating with what is readily and cheaply available in this anti-sociomedicine climate and if the feds (taxes, y'all), and the alcohol, caffeine and what all markets benefit from this sub-pharmaceutical culture, it's all good!

or, as usual, scientific studies, like the bible, can be used to support whichever side of the fence one is on--or gets paid by.

which I know you are trying to point out, but I am reiterating for all those scratching their heads over this supposed conundrum.

take what you need, leave the rest.

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Stanton Peele, PhD, JD, is the author of Recover! He has been a pioneer in the addiction field since publication of Love and Addiction in 1975.


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