The University of Florida Health Science Center is reporting that energy drinks, favored among young people for the caffeine jolt, also play a lead role in several popular alcoholic drinks, such as Red Bull and vodka. But combining alcohol and energy drinks may create a dangerous mix, according to new research.
In a study of college-aged adults exiting bars, patrons who consumed energy drinks mixed with alcohol had a threefold increased risk of leaving a bar highly intoxicated and were four times more likely to intend to drive after drinking than bar patrons who drank alcohol only. The study appears in the April issue of the journal Addictive Behaviors.
“Previous laboratory research suggests that when caffeine is mixed with alcohol it overcomes the sedating effects of alcohol and people may perceive that they are less intoxicated than they really are,” said the study’s lead researcher Dennis Thombs, an associate professor in the UF College of Public Health. “This may lead people to drink more or make uninformed judgments about whether they are safe to drive.”
Experts believe that among college drinkers, as many as 28 percent consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks in a typical month.
“There’s a very common misconception that if you drink caffeine with an alcoholic beverage the stimulant effect of the caffeine counteracts the depressant effect of the alcohol and that is not true,” Goldberger said. “We know that caffeine aggravates the degree of intoxication, which can lead to risky behaviors.”