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Study: Alcohol, Energy Drinks Are Risky Combo

Researchers Say Drinkers of Alcohol and Energy Drinks Are Impulsive, Even if They Don’t Realize It

Second Opinion

The study reflects what doctors in the field have been observing for years, says Steven Lipshultz, MD, executive dean for child health at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He was not involved in the study but reviewed it for WebMD.

Lipshultz has published recent research on the dangers of energy drinks. He began to research it after he cared for patients brought in with adverse effects after using the drinks. He is chief of staff at Holtz Children's Hospital.

"It's been known for some time now that the combination of alcohol and an energy drink is much more concerning in terms of adverse events than in terms of an energy drink alone or alcohol alone," Lipshultz  tells WebMD.

The new study, he says, confirms other research showing the adverse effects of the combination.

He worries in particular about high-risk people who do not even know they are at high risk. For example, a teen with an underlying but undiagnosed heart rhythm disorder may be especially susceptible to the effect of the combination.

The reason the energy drink boosts the adverse effects of drinking can be explained simply, Lipshultz says. "Normally, if you drink alcohol over a period of time, your body has a governor. You become sleepy, tired, and ultimately pass out. That's the way the body protects itself. "

However, with the combination of alcohol and energy drink, that ''governor" for sleepiness is inhibited, he says.

"We don't think there is a good reason to use this combination," Lipshultz says.

Perspective of Energy Drink Companies

Asked to comment on the study findings, Elaine Lutz of 5-Hour Energy gave WebMD this statement:

"We do not condone mixing 5-Hour Energy with alcohol. Our call center is specifically instructed to advise consumers that we do not recommend use of our product with alcohol."

"This study has no relevance to 5-Hour Energy. Unlike other products, 5-Hour Energy is a low-volume dietary supplement, making it inherently less compatible with alcohol. Further, our product is not carbonated and contains no sugar."

The product's aim is to help adults manage energy needs and be more productive in their work lives, she says.

A spokesman for Red Bull, another energy drink, says that the study "confirms the beneficial effect of improving cognitive performance when energy drinks are consumed on their own."

It also shows the well-known adverse effects of alcohol drinking on cognitive performance, he says.

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