The dark side of energy drinks, Part I: alcohol abuse

November 23, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

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What is college life without energy drinks? Ask any college student and he or she will tell you.

Energy drinks are pretty “in” among young people nowadays. Increased energy and enhanced performance are just among the desirable of these drinks. However, there is a dark side to energy drinks that we might not know about.

Recent research shows links between energy drink use and undesirable and dangerous behavior. In this series, we explore the dark side of energy drinks.

Energy drinks are handy in staying up late to cram for the following morning’s exam. What is becoming increasingly common is mixing energy drinks and alcoholic drinks, with the misconception that caffeine counteracts the effect of alcohol and there avoid drunkenness. The result is a strong brew of caffeine and alcohol in the bloodstream. A recent study indicates that those who habitually consume energy drinks are at a higher risk of developing alcohol dependence and going on binge drinking.

The study looked at more than 1000 college students and data on consumption of energy drinks and alcohol of the past 12 months were collected. The findings indicate that those who consumed energy drinks at a high frequency (compared to both non- and low-frequency energy drink users) were more likely to

  • get drunk at an earlier age
  • consume more alcoholic drinks per drinking session
  • develop alcohol dependence

Kathleen Miller, research scientist from the Research Institute on Addictions at the University at Buffalo, warns against the common belief that

  • mixing alcohol and caffeine reduces drunkenness
  • mixing alcohol and caffeine  prevents hangovers
  • alcohol plus caffeine fools a breathalyzer test

“Caffeine does not antagonize or cancel out the impairment associated with drunkenness—it merely disguises the more obvious markers of that impairment.”

Energy drinks, popularly known in the brand names Red Bull, Monster, Rocks Star contain high amounts of caffeine – 3 to 10 times contained in a can of coke. In addition, they also contain other rather questionable ingredients. Last year, German authorities found traces of cocaine in Red Bull Cola, a product declared as 100% natural.

A big problem is the fact that energy drinks are largely unregulated, even in the US. According to study lead author Dr. Amelia M. Arria, Director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health:

The fact that there is no regulation on the amount of caffeine in energy drinks or no requirements related to the labeling of contents or possible health risks is concerning.”

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2 Responses to “The dark side of energy drinks, Part I: alcohol abuse”
  1. Ednamay says:

    One hundred doctors and scientists have signed a petition urging the Federal Food and Drug Administration to require warning labels and caffeine content on energy drinks. Although Canada and Europe require labels on caffeinated energy drinks that warn against use by young children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or caffeine- sensitive people, the warning is not required in the United States. People in the U.S. drink more of these drinks than any other country. Caffeine can cause heart palpitations, nervousness and sleeplessness, but it has also been associated with serious conditions like depression, antisocial personality disorder, alcohol dependence, and drug use. Caffeine is addictive and rehab may be necessary.

  2. thelmahickman says:

    I didn’t know about this correlation but I seems logic. When my brother went to a Pennsylvania drug rehab facility for his alcohol addiction I looked into this subject and I did learn new things about it.I also found out that addiction is due 50 percent to genetic predisposition and 50 percent to poor coping skills.There are a lot of interesting studies about alcohol addiction.

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