Study: Alcohol, energy
drink mix tied to urge to drink
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[July 18, 2014]
By Andrew M. Seaman
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -
Mixing alcohol and energy drinks increases the urge to
drink more than drinking alcohol alone, according to a
new study from Australia.
The findings suggest that people who mix alcohol and energy drinks
may end up drinking more alcohol than they intended, said the
study’s lead author.
“Obviously these findings are not going to deter young people from
drinking if they want to get drunk, but they need to be mindful that
they may be unwittingly putting themselves at a greater risk of
accidents and injuries because they end up drinking more than they
had intended,” Rebecca McKetin said in an email.
The study results are similar to those of research published by a
U.S. group last year, write McKetin and her coauthor Alice Coen, who
are both with the Australian National University’s Center for
Research on Ageing, Health and Well-being in Canberra.
“We normally think of alcohol as a depressant, but it also has a
stimulant effect, and it is this stimulant effect that is most
strongly related to how much we like alcohol, and whether we want to
keep drinking,” McKetin said. “Energy drinks contain caffeine.
Caffeine, being a stimulant, tends to bring out the stimulant
effects of alcohol intoxication. It may be this that causes energy
drinks to increase the desire to keep drinking alcohol.”
For the new study, she and Coen recruited 75 participants between
the ages of 18 and 30 years. The participants were assigned to drink
either vodka mixed with soda water or vodka mixed with a popular
Both cocktails also contained some fruit juice. The participants
were unaware of which cocktail they drank.
The participants answered a series of questions before they drank
their cocktail and again 20 minutes afterward.
Those who drank the cocktail containing vodka and the energy drink
reported a greater urge to drink afterwards than those who drank the
cocktail of vodka and soda water. That was especially true among the
test subjects who had higher blood alcohol levels, the researchers
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Those who drank the cocktail containing the energy drink and vodka
also reported “liking” their drink more than those who had the
cocktail with only vodka and water, the researchers note in
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
“In our study we could not confirm whether or not people’s desire to
keep drinking was due to the sweetness of the energy drink or the
caffeine that it contained,” McKetin said.
She added that previous research suggests it is the caffeine rather
than the sweetness that is causing the effect.
The new research alone is not enough to advocate for policies
restricting the availability of energy drinks in bars, because they
can’t be sure how people respond to alcohol and energy drink
mixtures in real life situations, McKetin said.
“We need to demonstrate that combining energy drinks with alcohol
leads to a significant increase in people’s drinking and
alcohol-related problems,” she added. “We will then be in a stronger
position to regulate the availability of these beverages and deliver
public health messages about their potential harm.”
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, online July 17, 2014.
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