Double Edged Sword Of Energy Drinks + Booze

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The debate on alcoholic energy drinks has been raging for a while. The Food and Drug Administration concluded that adding caffeine to alcoholic drinks violates safety rules. The West Australian government banned the sale of alcohol mixed with energy drinks in clubs after midnight. Health and consumer groups in Australia are now calling for a country-wide ban on alcoholic energy drinks. Most major alcohol companies have discontinued their lines of alcoholic energy drinks, but anyone can still make their own caffeine-infused cocktail. In order to establish just how much riskier the consumption of alcohol mixed with energy drinks is compared to alcohol-only consumption researchers in Australia conducted a study.

According to the results just published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research:

 …alcohol consumed with energy drinks may provide a double-edged effect: The increased stimulation from energy drinks may negate some intoxication-related side effects by increasing alertness. However, it could also lead to negative side effects associated with overstimulation.

The study, which followed 403 Australians aged 18 to 35 who had consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AmED) and alcohol only in the preceding six months, revealed some interesting findings. First, risk taking behavior and negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption were present in both session types. It was also found that participants consumed a significantly greater quantity of alcohol in alcohol mixed with energy drinks sessions compared to alcohol-only sessions.

But, curiously, while AmED users self-report engaging in more risk-taking behavior relative to alcohol users, the study showed that wasn’t really the case. The odds of participants being disinhibited and engaging in 26 risk behaviors were significantly lower during AmED sessions relative to alcohol-only sessions. Moreover, the odds of experiencing several physiological (i.e., speech and walking difficulties, nausea, and slurred speech) and psychological (i.e., confusion, exhaustion, sadness) outcomes related to the sedative qualities of alcohol were less during AmED sessions compared to alcohol sessions.

That said, the odds of enduring physiological (i.e., heart palpitations, sleep difficulties, agitation, tremors, jolt and crash episodes, and increased speech speed) and psychological (i.e., irritability and tension) outcomes related to overstimulation were significantly greater during AmED sessions than alcohol sessions.

Jerril Rechter, CEO, VicHealth stated in an opinion piece published in the National Times:

They have been dubbed ‘blackout in a can’ for their disturbing ability to erase the events of the night before. They have killed and hospitalised young people worldwide. And are directly linked to heart problems, uncharacteristic erratic behaviour, violence and drink driving.

Check out this post by Jeannie Moulton if you’re interested in reading more about combining alcohol and caffeine.

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