Washington: Energy drinks lead to increased alcohol consumption, according to a new research.
Sean Barrett, associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and colleagues investigated drinking patterns when alcohol and caffeinated energy drinks were combined.
Researchers interviewed more than 70 Dalhousie students about their energy drink consumption and alcohol use.
Barrett was one of several Dalhousie researchers involved in a study, investigating drinking patterns when alcohol and caffeinated energy drinks were combined. Researchers interviewed more than 70 Dalhousie students about their energy drink consumption and alcohol use.
“What we found was that energy drinks basically doubled the amount that people reported drinking,” he said.
“So if they had an average of four drinks when they weren’t mixing with energy drinks, they would have around eight if they were. That’s actually a pretty profound increase, but it’s consistent with our other research where we see an increase in alcohol consumption related to the use of other stimulant drugs, like tobacco.”
Dr. Barrett says that the research on energy drinks is so preliminary that there’s not a conclusive answer yet. One hypothesis is that it’s purely a social behaviour: people who are having a good time use more of anything.
There’s also an interesting correlation between the banning of smoking in bars—a popular stimulant for many who drink—with the rising use of energy drinks.
However, the most interesting hypotheses are physiological: that the drinks’ ingredients may be affecting the release of dopamine from the brain, prolonging the initial euphoria that comes with rising blood-alcohol levels and holding off the sedative-like effects when they fall. This would parallel lab research done with other stimulants like tobacco cigarettes and cocaine.
“Research has yet to determine if it’s the caffeine or perhaps an amino acid called taurine that might be affecting the brain and leading to these behaviours,” said Barrett.
“But what we do know that when alcohol is used together with these energy drinks, people say they feel more sober but they still tend to perform poorly on various neurocognitive tasks. They’re still physically intoxicated, they just feel like they aren’t.”
Because people tend to consume more alcohol when they co-use energy drinks it can put them at an risk for acute alcohol poisoning, increase the possibility of engaging in other risk-taking behaviours and—in the longer term— build up the sort of tolerance that can lead to dependence.
The study has been published in Drug and Alcohol Review.