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Mixing Energy Drinks and Alcohol Leads to Heavier Drinking: Study

New research highlights the risks associated with drinking alcohol in combination with energy drinks, suggesting that it gives drinkers a greater urge to consume more alcohol. 

In a study published in the medical journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research on July 17, Australian researchers indicate that people who combine alcohol and energy drinks, such as Red Bull and Monster, appear to be more likely to have greater amounts of alcohol than people who drink alcohol alone.

Researchers from the Australian National University’s Center for Research on Aging, Health and Well-being in Canberra conducted a double-blind randomized study on 75 drinkers between the age of 18 and 30.

Participants were given an alcoholic drink that was mixed with either soda water or Red Bull energy drink. Each drink was also mixed with fruit juice. Participants didn’t know which drink they received.

They were also given specific questionnaires before and after drinking. Researchers found patients given the alcohol and energy drink combination had an increased urge to drink and had a significantly higher “liking” of the cocktail.

The increased taste for the cocktail caused participants to want to drink more of the cocktail, compared to those who only drank the cocktail containing the alcohol. Researchers were unsure if this was because of the sweetness of the drink or because of the caffeine.

Rebecca McKetin and Alice Coen, lead authors of the study, found subjects who had higher blood alcohol contents (BAC) also had an increased urge to drink more alcohol.

Alcohol is typically a depressant, however it can also have a stimulating effect. Because energy drinks contain caffeine, they also stimulant the body, which enhances the stimulant effect of alcohol. Researchers speculate this may be why combining the two beverages causes people to want to drink more than usual.

While the findings of the study may not deter young people from drinking the two together, researchers suggest it should make drinkers more aware they are putting themselves at risk of accidents and injuries from consuming more alcohol.

Previously, many energy drinks were on the market that contained alcohol. However, the FDA effectively banned all alcoholic energy drinks in 2010, finding that caffeine is an unsafe additive for alcoholic beverages.

The new Australian study confirms the findings of a U.S. study published last year, which was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, highlighting the risks of combining alcohol and energy drinks. Researchers from Penn State University resulted in similar findings to that of the Australian study, concluding that people who consume the two in combination drink more alcohol overall and suffer more negative consequences, like having a hangover the next day or deciding to drive after drinking.

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