FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- With long hours and physically demanding workloads, Soldiers are increasingly using sports and energy drinks to refuel.

The newest craze to hit the market is alcoholic energy drinks which combine the effects of alcohol, a depressant, and stimulants.

"People drink them to help them stay awake longer and drink more," said Angela Moss, a prevention coordinator with the Army Substance Abuse Program at Fort Sam Houston.

"There is also a (false) belief that you won't have a hangover if you only drink these. Finally, alcoholic energy drinks tend to be cheaper," she said.

Moss explained that fatigue is the body's way of saying one has had enough to drink. Alcoholic energy drinks fool the body and can make the person think they are not as intoxicated as they really are.

"Just because you don't feel drunk doesn't mean that the alcohol has not impaired your judgment and your ability to drive a car, or do your job," Moss said.

"It just creates a 'wide awake drunk.' The other danger is the caffeine levels. High levels of caffeine can cause increased anxiety, panic attacks, increased blood pressure and insomnia."
Even death.

Ross Cooney, an 18-year-old basketball player from Ireland, died several years ago, after he shared four cans of Red Bull and played in a game causing France to ban the sale of the beverage.

The central ingredient in most non-alcoholic energy drinks is caffeine, the same stimulant found in coffee or tea. It is often in the form of guarana or yerba mate.

According to public health officials, an average eight-fluid-ounce energy drink has about 80 milligrams of caffeine, while 16 fluid ounce drinks contain around 150 milligrams.

Drinks containing as much as 400 mg of caffeine have been marketed, according to several online sources. Compared to beer, which has a 4 percent alcohol content, alcoholic energy drinks contain up to 12 percent of alcohol by volume along with the caffeine.

When you then add (high caffeine content) to alcohol some people can have serious health or other problems Moss said.

"We have many alcohol-related incidents," said Fort Sam Houston Police Capt. Stephen Kampan, who explained that most physical altercations in the barracks are as a result of alcohol consumption by Soldiers.

Soldiers also may face arrest for driving under the influence, Kampan said, adding that incidents are on the rise because alcoholic energy drinks are often consumed with prescription drugs.

Alcoholic energy drinks are available on post, but consumers must be over 21 and provide proof of identity.

The difference between sports drinks, non-alcoholic energy drinks and alcoholic energy drinks is enormous.

Sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade re-hydrate the body and replenish electrolytes. Electrolytes maintain salt and potassium balances in the body.

Non-alcoholic energy drinks are meant to supply mental and physical stimulation for a short period of time, while alcoholic energy drinks are consumed for effect.

"We are trying to get the word out to Soldiers, commanders and Family members about the dangers of these drinks through briefings, articles and awareness campaigns," Moss said.

"We are currently running a drunk-driving campaign to bring additional awareness to the problem. It is important for everyone to realize what they are drinking and what their kids and fellow Soldiers are drinking. These are not harmless drinks and it can ruin careers and lives."