Mixing alcohol and energy drinks increases erratic behaviour by 50%.

A recent study, Effects of Energy Drinks Mixed with Alcohol on Behavioral Control: Risks for College Students Consuming Trendy Cocktails, published online in the Journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, suggests that the habit of drinking alcohol and energy drinks at the same time (a favourite of young people is vodka and Red Bull) may lead to greater incidents of uninhibited and risky behaviour.

Although energy drinks do not affect the level of alcohol in the drinker, they do give the drinker a feeling of exhilaration and invincibility that can lead to reckless behaviour. This is due to the high caffeine content in energy drinks.

Researcher Cecile Marczinski, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University said “Even alcohol alone will make you feel stimulated and happy. Mixing in the energy drink makes that more pronounced. Energy drinks have tons of caffeine in them, more than mixing a soft drink in alcohol.”

Although this has been a growing trend for some time now among young people, there has been very little research until recently on the subject and the effects of combining alcohol and energy drinks.

The study took 56 young people and split them into 4 groups:

  1. drank alcohol and energy drinks at the same time.
  2. drank only alcohol.
  3. drank only energy drinks.
  4. drank only a placebo beverage.

All participants were then given a behavioural test. For those in the alcohol groups, the researchers waited until the blood alcohol level reached the legal limit to give the test. “We tested their behaviour on a computer task that measured their impulsivity,” said Prof Marczinski.

“We also gave them a questionnaire and asked them how intoxicated they felt. Those who drank the combination said they felt less intoxicated that those drinking alcohol alone.”

The study concluded that “An energy drink appears to alter some of the objective and subjective impairing effects of alcohol, but not others. Thus, Alcohol Mixed energy Drinks (AmED) may contribute to a high-risk scenario for the drinker. The mix of impaired behavioral inhibition and enhanced stimulation is a combination that may make AmED consumption riskier than alcohol consumption alone.”

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Effects of Energy Drinks Mixed with Alcohol on Behavioral Control: Risks for College Students Consuming Trendy Cocktails. Published online in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research