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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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Energy Drink Cocktails Boost Desire to Drink More?

Alcohol plus Red Bull-type beverages might lead to binge-drinking, researcher suggests

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Mixing caffeinated energy drinks with alcohol appears to boost the desire to keep on drinking, new research reveals.

The finding from a small study of young adults suggests that the energy drink-booze combination could fuel a higher risk for dangerous binge-drinking, the Australian researchers said.

"Based on our study, we can't be certain whether it was the caffeine or the sugary additives that made the energy drink and vodka cocktail more appealing than drinking alcohol alone," said study lead author Rebecca McKetin, a fellow with the Center for Research on Aging, Health and Well-being at the Australian National University in Canberra.

But she suggested one possible mechanism. "We normally think of alcohol as a depressant, but it also has a stimulant effect, and it is this stimulant effect that is most strongly related to how much we like alcohol, and whether we want to keep drinking," McKetin said.

"Caffeine, being a stimulant, tends to bring out the stimulant effects of alcohol intoxication. It may be this that causes energy drinks to increase the desire to keep drinking alcohol," she suggested.

The researchers didn't track how much more the young adults who participated in the study actually did drink, only their stated desire to down another.

The American Beverage Association, an industry group, said this is one of the study's limitations. "As acknowledged by the authors, this study does not establish a link between energy drink consumption and increased alcohol consumption. Rather, it measures how people feel and not what they actually do," the association said in a statement Thursday.

Furthermore, its member companies "adhere to responsible labeling and marketing guidelines that do not allow energy drink labels to promote mixing with alcohol nor make any claims that the consumption of alcohol together with energy drinks counteracts the effects of alcohol."

Energy drinks, popular with many young Americans, are currently consumed by more than one-third of 18- to 24- year-olds, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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