College students who
consume energy drinks tend to drink more alcohol and having both in the same
day may lead to more negative consequences, a new study says.
caffeinated energy drinks and alcohol is a trend, especially among college
students. In fact, about half of energy drink users admit to combining them
with alcohol while partying.
Mixing alcohol and energy
drinks is a serious public health concern when compared to drinking alcohol
alone. The FDA banned the sale of premixed alcoholic energy drinks such as Four
Loco, saying they're unsafe, but it's easy for college kids to just mix their
own. "We were interested in how using energy drinks affects alcohol use and
alcohol-related consequences," Megan Patrick told Reuters Health.
Patrick is a research
assistant professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of
Michigan. She is co-author of the new study, which was published in the Journal
of Adolescent Health. "We wanted to compare days college students used both
energy drinks and alcohol to days they used only alcohol," Patrick said.
More about alcohol use
researchers wanted to learn more about the level of alcohol use, whether or not
the students thought they were drunk and what consequences occurred on the days
when energy drinks and alcohol were both consumed.
The researchers used
information from the University Life Study that took place at Penn State
Starting with the first
semester of college, 744 university students completed surveys for each of
seven semesters, plus daily surveys. Data on alcohol and energy drink use was
available from spring of the students' sophomore year (spring 2009) to fall of
their senior year (fall 2010).
Students were asked about
energy drink consumption with and without alcohol. They were asked the number
of alcoholic drinks they drank the day before, what time they started drinking,
when they stopped and if they got drunk.
The researchers also used
gender, body weight and length of drinking time to calculate blood alcohol
Combining the two
The consequences of alcohol
use were determined by yes or no responses to each of 10 negative consequences,
including such things as having a hangover or getting into trouble.
Just over 80% of students
drank alcohol, and 51% consumed at least one energy drink during the study. 30%
admitted to using energy drinks and alcohol on the same day at least one time.
Men consumed a greater
number of drinks but also spent more hours drinking than women. Students who
consumed more energy drinks also consumed a greater number of alcoholic drinks,
and had a trend toward spending more time drinking.
They also reached higher
peak blood alcohol levels when they combined alcohol and energy drinks compared
with days they only drank alcohol.
Students were also more
likely to report getting drunk and having more negative consequences on the
days they also consumed energy drinks.
The researchers also wanted
to see if energy drinks were related to negative consequences independent of
the amount of alcohol consumed. When they adjusted for blood alcohol levels,
they found that energy drink use was no longer associated with students'
feeling of being drunk, but it was still linked to a greater number of negative
"We found that college
students tended to drink more heavily, become more intoxicated, and have more
negative drinking consequences on days they used both energy drinks and
alcohol, compared to days they only used alcohol," Patrick said."It's
important for consumers to be aware the mixing energy drinks with alcohol, even
on the same day, may lead to more serious alcohol-related consequences,"
People who consume energy
drinks and alcohol are combining the stimulant effects of caffeine and the
depressant effects of alcohol, which can make them feel less drunk, when they
are actually just as impaired, Patrick said
"This can have serious
potential health impacts, for example if people don't realize how intoxicated
they actually are and decide to drive home," she said.
The study doesn't prove
that drinking caffeinated beverages causes young adults to drink more alcohol
and suffer more consequences. It's possible that people who consume more energy
drinks are bigger risk takers.
"It appears that the
consumption of caffeinated alcoholic beverages has a direct effect on
increasing risk by masking intoxication and making it easier for youths to
consume more alcohol. It also appears that consumption of alcohol with caffeine
may itself be a marker for youths who engage in riskier behaviour," Dr
Michael Siegel told Reuters Health in an email.
Siegel is a professor in
the Department of Community Health Sciences at the Boston University School of
Public Health. He was not involved in the new study, but he published a similar
study last month in the journal Addictive Behaviour.
Siegel's team also found
that drinking caffeinated alcoholic beverages was associated with a riskier
drinking profile and a higher probability of negative alcohol-related
"More research is
needed to help elucidate the mechanisms by which the consumption of caffeinated
alcoholic beverages lead to increased risk of adverse consequences. But based
on the current evidence, it seems prudent for parents to warn their teenagers
about the risks of consuming alcohol mixed with caffeinated beverages," he