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Energy drinks with alcohol could lead to risky behavior

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Energy drinks and alcohol

New data suggests the combination of energy drinks and alcohol can lead to poor impulse control and stimulation that makes the mix pharmacologically different from just drinking alcohol.

Energy drinks alter reaction to alcohol

Cecile A. Marczinski, assistant professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University, and lead author of a new study, says energy drinks mixed with alcohol leads to “high impulsivity behavior” and can alter the reaction to alcohol.

Data shows increased sales of energy drinks. Mixing alcohol with the beverages has become trendy, leading the researchers to look at the combined effect, compared to drinking alcohol alone.

Energy beverages with alcohol change perception

The difference between drinking alcohol compared to energy drinks with alcohol is changes in perception, the researchers found.

In the study, researchers measured behavior in 56 college students given four different drinks: alcohol, an energy drink, or a combination energy beverage with alcohol or placebo.

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Afterwards, the investigators measured how quickly the college students could perform and suppress their actions. They also asked the students whether they felt stimulated, sedated, impaired or drunk.

Amelia M. Arria, director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health explains, “…the presence of an energy drink did not change the level of impairment associated with alcohol consumption. It did, however, change the perception of impairment.”

"The findings from this study provide concrete laboratory evidence that the mixture of energy drinks with alcohol is riskier than alcohol alone," said Marczinski who adds college students and clinicians need to be aware of the risks of mixing beverages like Red Bull™ and vodka.

Alcohol makes people act impulsively. Combining alcohol with energy drinks could lead to impulsive behavior from increased stimulation, that the authors say, sets up a scenario that is riskier than drinking alcohol alone.

Source: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER)
July 2011 online early view

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