The Science of Mixing Alcohol and Caffeine | AspenRidge

Real Impact on the Central Nervous System (CNS)

The consumption of alcohol and caffeine can significantly impact the central nervous system, which comprises the brain and spinal cord. Alcohol reduces CNS activity, while caffeine stimulates the release of neurotransmitters, leading to improved alertness and cognitive performance. However, the simultaneous consumption of these substances can cause confusion for the CNS, as it receives conflicting signals.

Lee et al. (2016) provide insight into how caffeine might influence conditions like migraines by affecting the CNS. The dual impact on the CNS can exacerbate the symptoms of neurological conditions or contribute to the development of new symptoms, such as increased anxiety, restlessness, and even migraines. The long-term implications of regularly consuming both substances together are still being researched, but it’s clear that the CNS experiences heightened effects from their interaction.


Risks of overconsumption and alcohol poisoning

When individuals use caffeine to counteract the sedative effects of alcohol, they may feel less intoxicated than they actually are. This can create a false sense of sobriety and lead to increased alcohol consumption, causing them to drink more than they normally would. The stimulating effect of caffeine masks the body’s natural cues for intoxication, which can result in risky decisions such as driving under the influence or engaging in unsafe social behaviors. It’s important to be aware of this potential danger and to always drink responsibly.

Alcohol poisoning is a serious and sometimes fatal consequence of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period. The symptoms of alcohol poisoning, such as confusion, vomiting, seizures, slow breathing, and unconsciousness, can be exacerbated when caffeine is in the mix. Caffeine’s ability to keep individuals awake and active for longer periods may prolong alcohol consumption, increasing the risk of reaching toxic levels of alcohol in the bloodstream.


The Thin Line: Perception of Intoxication

As we already stated, consuming caffeine along with alcohol can lead to a misleading perception of one’s level of intoxication due to the stimulant properties of caffeine. People often report feeling more alert and less drunk when they drink alcohol and caffeine together. This phenomenon is known as the “caffeine cloak” and can mask the depressive effects of alcohol. It can lead individuals to believe that they have a higher tolerance or are less affected by alcohol than they actually are. This misconception can increase the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors such as driving under the influence or making unsafe choices due to a false sense of sobriety.

Research, including studies like those conducted by Oteri et al. (2007), highlights the popularity of mixing energy drinks with alcohol among students, revealing a concerning trend of underestimating alcohol’s effects. This combination can dangerously distort one’s ability to assess their level of impairment, potentially leading to situations where the risk of harm is increased.


  1. Corti, R., Binggeli, C., Sudano, I., Spieker, L., Hänseler, E., Ruschitzka, F., Chaplin, W. F., Lüscher, T. F., & Noll, G. (2002). Coffee acutely increases sympathetic nerve activity and blood pressure independently of caffeine content: Role of habitual versus nonhabitual drinking. Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, 106, 2935-2940.
  2. Lee, M. J., Choi, H. A., Choi, H., & Chung, C. S. (2016). Caffeine discontinuation improves acute migraine treatment: a prospective clinic-based study. The Journal of Headache and Pain, 17.
  3. Lucas, M., Mirzaei, F., Pan, A., Okereke, O. I., Willett, W. C., O’Reilly, É. J., Koenen, K., & Ascherio, A. (2011). Coffee, caffeine, and risk of depression among women. Archives of Internal Medicine, 171(17), 1571-1578.
  4. Oteri, A., Salvo, F., Caputi, A. P., & Calapai, G. (2007). Intake of energy drinks in association with alcoholic beverages in a cohort of students of the School of Medicine of the University of Messina. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 31(10), 1677-1680.