Dangerous Cocktail: Energy Drinks + Alcohol
Mixing Booze With Energy Drinks Triples Risk of Getting Drunk
Feb. 12, 2010 -- College-age drinkers who swill alcoholic energy-drink
cocktails are three times more likely than alcohol-only drinkers to leave a bar
What's more, those imbibing energy cocktails are four times more likely to
attempt drunken driving, find University of Florida researchers Dennis Thombs,
PhD, and colleagues.
"Combining energy drinks and alcohol can trick the brain, making people
think they're sober -- or sober enough -- when they're not," Thombs tells
As many as 28% of college drinkers drink alcohol mixed with energy drinks in
a typical month, Thombs and colleagues note.
Between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., Thombs' team interviewed 800 patrons leaving
bars in a college partying area. They asked about their drinking and about
whether they intended to drive. Then they checked their breath alcohol
The results are sobering.
- 6.5% had drunk alcohol-energy drink combos.
- 6.6% had drunk energy drinks and alcohol, but not mixed together.
- 86% had drunk alcohol only.
- The average breath alcohol reading for those who drank energy cocktails was
0.109, higher than the legal driving limit of 0.08. The average breath alcohol
concentration for those who had alcohol only was 0.081.
- Those who combined alcohol and energy drinks drank for longer periods of
- Patrons drinking energy cocktails left bars later than those who drank
"Often, students drink energy drinks because they are tired and don't start
until late and want to have enough energy," Thombs tells WebMD. "They drink
these before they go out. Then there's a group that combines alcohol and energy
drinks; the most common is Red Bull and vodka."
The phenomenon is so common, he tells WebMD, that researchers have coined an
acronym for it: AMED, for alcohol-mixed-with-energy-drinks.
Study researcher Bruce Goldberger, PhD, director of toxicology at the
University of Florida, says consumers of energy drinks may drink more and
misjudge their capabilities because caffeine reduces drowsiness felt by more
This condition is often described as "wide awake and drunk," Goldberger says
in a news release.
People often think the stimulant effect of caffeine counteracts the
depressant effect of alcohol, but that's not true. Stimulants actually
The study notes that the market for high-caffeine-content energy drinks has
grown exponentially since the introduction of Red Bull in 1997. Many such
energy drinks are now on the market.
The study appears in the April issue of the journal Addictive