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Some Drinkers Likely to Ignore Caffeinated Alcohol’s Risks

Many Caffeinated Alcohol Drinks Have Been Pulled Off the Market, but Researchers Fear Drinkers May Make Their Own Cocktail

Energy Drinks an Early Culprit continued...

Howland says “the problem began with the so-called energy drinks that contain various stimulants, primarily caffeine.”

According to the new report:

  • A 2008 survey found that of 577 caffeinated beverages listed on a web site known as Energy Fiend, at least 130 contained more than 0.02% caffeine limit for soft drinks imposed by the FDA.
  • A 2006 survey found that 24% of college students reported mixing energy drinks with alcohol in the month before being questioned.
  • Bar patrons who drank caffeinated alcohol beverages had a threefold risk of leaving the bar highly intoxicated, compared to those who drank alcohol without caffeine.
  • Bar patrons had a fourfold risk of intending to drive after leaving the bar, had double the risk of experiencing or committing sexual assault, riding with an intoxicated driver, having an alcohol-related accident, or requiring medical treatment.

Howland tells WebMD that little is known about why some young adults are more likely to prefer caffeine with alcohol, though clever marketing by manufacturers of energy drinks and of caffeinated alcoholic beverages may influence otherwise safety-conscious people.

“Marketing includes unsubstantiated claims that energy drinks will increase attention, endurance, performance, weight loss, and fun, and will reduce performance decrements due to fatigue or alcohol,” the researchers write.

Howland says research is needed to examine:

  • The effects of caffeinated alcoholic beverages vs. caffeinated or alcoholic beverages alone.
  • The extent to which caffeinated alcoholic beverages lead to risky behaviors.
  • Whether personality traits, such as impulsivity and novelty seeking, may explain why some young adults mix caffeine and alcohol and others do not.

The researchers conclude that “evidence-based information” is needed for effective policymaking and public education.


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