The practice of mixing energy drinks with alcohol has become a popular trend, especially at U.S. college campuses. While alcohol reduces inhibitions, energy drinks combat the long hours spent working and studying to help college students’ party harder and longer.
Some experts have been concerned, however, that the mixing of alcohol and energy drinks may have dangerous consequences. A recent study explored the effects of the combination alcohol and energy drinks with the consumption of alcohol alone. The results will be published in the July 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
The study found that the combination of alcohol and energy drink enhanced the experience of stimulation in participants but the energy drink did not change the level of impairment for acting impulsively. The findings support what experts have suspected, that the combination of energy drinks with alcohol may increase the risks of injury and other related consequences for heavy drinking.
Lead author of the study Cecile A. Marczinski, assistant professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University explains that alcohol consumption is changing for young people. Classic drinks have been replaced by combination energy and alcohol drinks such as Red Bull™ and vodka.
While there has been an increase in the popularity of energy drinks and experts have known of the practice of mixing the drinks with alcohol, there has not been an objective examination of the effects of the practice until this study was conducted. The purpose of the study, explains Marczinski, was to show that the consumptions of a mix of alcohol and energy drinks is pharmacologically distinct from alcohol consumption, and that the combination presents an increased risk.
The researchers recruited 56 college students and randomly assigned them to one of four groups that received different combinations of either alcohol only, a mix of alcohol and energy drink and a placebo beverage. The participants were tested for speed and execution tests to determine how quickly they could execute and suppress actions immediately following consumption. The participants also reported their sensations related to their consumption, such as levels of stimulation, sedation and impairment.
The researchers found that the combination of energy drinks with alcohol did not change the level of impairments associated with drinking alcohol, but there was a difference in perception of the level of impairment. The participants who consumed alcohol and energy drink felt more stimulated compared to alcohol-only participants.
The results of the study highlight the combination of a feeling of stimulation mixed with high impulsivity levels among those who consume a combination of energy drinks with alcohol. College students must be aware of the higher risk associated with the consumption of energy drinks combined with alcohol.