Energy Drinks May Raise Risk for Alcohol Problems
College Students Who Often Drink Energy Drinks May Become Problem Drinkers, Researchers Say
FDA Should Regulate Energy Drinks
The amount of caffeine or other ingredients in these energy drinks is not regulated. Some may have three of four times the amount of caffeine found in a cup of coffee, he says. Higgins recently published a paper on the caffeine content of energy drinks in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
"Manufacturers can put anything they want in here and some of the substances have stimulant effects themselves as well as caffeine-type effects, so you get a double hit," he says. "The FDA regulates things that are less dangerous than these beverages."
Alcohol-Caffeine Combo Is Risky Business
Susan Foster, vice president and director of Policy Research and Analysis at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University in New York City, agrees. "The combination of highly caffeinated, sugary drinks and alcohol is enormously dangerous in many ways."
For starters, "these are the equivalent of a binge drink in a can, and consuming high levels of caffeine, which increase alertness and take away the usual signals that getting drunk, can lead to alcohol poisoning," she says.
It takes two to tango, says Toben F. Nelson, ScD, a professor of epidemiology & community health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis. "The stimulant can mask the depressant effect and students don't realize how intoxicated they are so they consume more," he says. "The combined effects of alcohol and caffeine really are making students more susceptible to the risks of alcohol and heavy drinking, and this is a relatively new phenomenon."
The new study does not show that drinking energy drinks encourages alcohol dependence, Maureen Storey, PhD, senior vice president for science policy for the American Beverage Association, the trade association representing companies making non-alcoholic drinks, says in a statement.
What's more,"there is nothing unique about the caffeine in energy drinks. In fact, most mainstream energy drinks actually contain about half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffee house coffee," she says. "The authors’ focus on this product category does little to shed light on the serious problem of binge drinking and alcoholism among young adults."