By Shawn Dwyer
In a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan have concluded that mixing alcohol and energy drinks poses a serious public health risk, especially among college students. “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,” said Megan Patrick, a research assistant professor and co-author of the study.
According to the study, students who either drank alcohol and energy drinks on the same day or who combined the two at the same time wound up spending more time drinking – thus consuming more alcohol – than they would have without the caffeinated drinks. The result of spending more hours drinking raised users’ blood alcohol levels to higher peaks. But because of the stimulant effects of the energy drinks, the users reported that they felt less drunk than they actually were. “This can have serious potential health impacts, for example if people don’t realize how intoxicated they actually are and decide to drive home,” Patrick said.
But a similar study conducted by the Department of Community Health at the Boston University School of Public Health found that it wasn’t necessarily the combination of alcohol and caffeine that posed a risk, but the profile of the drinkers themselves that led to negative consequences. “It appears that the consumption of caffeinated alcoholic beverages has a direct effect on increasing risk by masking intoxication and making it easier for youth to consume more alcohol,” said Dr. Michael Siegel, one of the authors of the Boston University’s study. “It also appears that consumption of alcohol with caffeine may itself be a marker for youth who engage in riskier behavior.”