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Energy Drinks Associated With an Increase in Alcohol Consumption

Published by Daily Times on Wed, 23 Apr 2014


Dr. Sean Barrett was one of several researchers involved in a study investigating drinking patterns when alcohol and caffeinated energy drinks were combined. Researchers interviewed more than 70 students about their energy drink consumption and alcohol consumption.What we found was that energy drinks basically doubled the amount that people reported drinking, he says. So if they had an average of four drinks when they werent mixing with energy drinks, they would have around eight if they were. Thats actually a pretty profound increase, but its consistent with our other research where we see an increase in alcohol consumption, related to the use of other stimulant drugs, like tobacco.Why does this occur' Dr. Barrett says that the research on energy drinks is so preliminary that theres not a conclusive answer yet. One hypothesis is that its purely a social behaviour: people who are having a good time use more of anything. Theres also an interesting correlation between the banning of smoking in barsa popular stimulant for many who drinkwith 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 its the caffeine or perhaps an amino acid called taurine that might be affecting the brain and leading to these behaviours, says Dr. 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. Theyre still physically intoxicated, they just feel like they arent.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 andin the longer term build up the sort of tolerance that can lead to dependence.Dr. Barrett notes that it will take more research before the precise effects of combining energy drinks with alcohol can be confirmed. But he advises caution and consideration for those who enjoy the beverages in tandem.We cant yet say for sure if its neurochemical or social or something else, but we see the behaviour pattern rather clearly. When people drink with energy drinks, they tend to drink in a more hazardous way.
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