- Over 30 percent of a sample of college students drank alcohol combined with a caffeinated energy drink on at least one occasion.
- Young people who mix alcohol with a caffeinated energy drink drank more heavily and reported more negative consequences of drinking than those who just drank alcohol.
Young people who combine alcohol with caffeine-laden energy drinks can end up drinking more than they intended to, finds a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. On college campuses, this combination of substances has resulted in heavier alcohol use and more serious alcohol-related problems compared to drinking alcohol without the added boost of energy drinks.
Megan E. Patrick, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, explained, “We found that college students tended to drink more heavily and become more intoxicated on days they used both energy drinks and alcohol, compared to days they only used alcohol. Even after controlling for how much alcohol they drank, students tended to experience a greater number of negative drinking consequences on days they also had energy drinks.”
Since the late 1980s, when energy drinks were first introduced, hundreds of brands with names like Red Bull, Full Throttle and Daredevil, have been marketed primarily to adolescents.
Marcie B. Schneider, M.D., a pediatrician with a subspecialty in adolescent medicine at Greenwich Adolescent Medicine in Connecticut, who was a lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ clinical report on energy drinks, noted that the word ‘never’ is in the report several times–as in, teens and children should never drink energy drinks. “And that’s just energy drinks,” she said. “Combine these energy products with alcohol and it can be even more of a dangerous situation.”
Patrick and her colleagues used a longitudinal measurement design that analyzed the drinking behavior of 508 college students of 65 sampled days over 4.203 days and up to four semesters for each student who participated in the study. They found that 30.5 percent drank energy drinks and alcohol at least once on the sampled days.
Schneider agreed with the study’s findings that drinking energy drinks and alcohol together by young people is an emerging public health problem and says the practice has become rampant across U.S. college campuses. “A growing number of emergency room visits are due to teens mixing energy drinks with alcohol. This is a potentially dangerous combination because energy drinks, which contain various amounts of caffeine, elevate the heart rate and blood pressure and make drinkers more anxious.”
“What studies like this can help with is getting conversations started," said Schneider. “Doctors should ask young people if they do this, and then ask if they know the dangers. Often teens don’t understand the risks of combining energy drinks with alcohol and that’s scary.”
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Journal of Adolescent Health: Contact Tor Berg at (415) 502-1373 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.jahonline.org