Cocktails of alcohol and energy drinks a dangerous combo

According to new research mixing energy drinks with alcohol is a dangerous combination.

A new study, involving more than 4,000 students, has found that drinking cocktails of alcohol and energy drinks doubles the risk of clubbers getting hurt or being taken advantage of sexually.

Energy drinks such as Red Bull, Irn-Bru 32 and Lucozade, often contain high levels of caffeine and other ingredients, and mixing them with alcohol has become a popular way of boosting energy levels in order to keep dancing all night.

The researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Centre in the United States, questioned 4,271 college students about their drinking habits and the consequences.

It was found that of those who had drunk alcohol in the previous 30 days, a quarter (24 per cent) said they had consumed energy cocktails; when their behaviour was compared with students who did not mix alcohol and energy drinks, the group were twice as likely to be hurt or injured after drinking, twice as likely to need medical attention and twice as likely to travel with a drunken driver.

This group also faced double the risk of either taking sexual advantage of someone else, or being taken advantage of themselves.

The cocktails also seemed to affect the amount they drank as in a typical drinking session, those on mixed drinks drank up to 36 per cent more than the other students and also reported twice as many episodes of weekly drunkenness.

Dr Mary Claire O'Brien, lead researcher for the study, says they knew anecdotally that college students mix energy drinks and alcohol in order to drink more, and to drink longer.

But Dr O'Brien says they were surprised that the risk of serious and potentially deadly consequences is so much higher for those who mix energy drinks with alcohol.

According to Dr O'Brien mixing caffeine (a stimulant) with alcohol (a depressant) equates to "getting into a car and stepping on the gas pedal and the brake at the same time".

She says students whose motor skills, visual reaction times, and judgment are impaired by alcohol may not perceive that they are intoxicated as readily when they're also ingesting a stimulant, as while the symptoms of drunkenness are reduced the drunkenness is not.

Dr O'Brien says some energy drinks contain as much as 300 milligrams of caffeine and has called for students to be informed of the risks of mixing alcohol with energy drinks.

Experts say there is currently very little information on the consequences of mixing alcohol with energy drinks and young people, need clear guidance on what impact different levels of drinking can have.

Energy drinks often contain a mixture of ingredients, such as caffeine, vitamins and herbs and products such as guarana, ginseng and ginkgo biloba; many also have high levels of sugar to help boost energy levels.

But caffeine remains the main energy-boosting ingredient, with an average energy-drink containing about the same amount as a small cup of coffee; about 65 per cent of energy-drink users are under the age of 35.

There has been criticism over the potential health effects of drinking large amounts of caffeine and France has banned the sale of the popular Red Bull brand following the death of an 18-year-old who played basketball shortly after consuming several cans of the drink; an inquest ruled that he died from Sudden Adult Death Syndrome.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits caffeine to 65 milligrams per serving of a food or beverage but as energy drinks are currently not regulated by the FDA, they can contain as much as 300 milligrams of caffeine in a single serving.

Dr O'Brien was speaking at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Washington DC.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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