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Mixing energy drinks with alcohol damaging: Study

By Ankush Chibber , 23-Aug-2012
Last updated the 23-Aug-2012 at 19:51 GMT

Mixing energy drinks with alcohol damaging

Young Australians who mix their alcohol with energy drinks may be getting more than the heady cocktail that they bargained for, a new study has suggested.

Researchers at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) revealed youngsters who mix alcohol and energy drinks experience significant negative physical and psychological effects.

According to the research, a first of its kind investigation of the frequency of this behaviour in an Australian community, mixing the two beverages types was associated with heart palpitations, sleep difficulties, agitation and tremors.

Energy drinks have built up a bad rep for themselves over the last few months in Australia. In June, Health and consumer groups in Australia called on the government authorities to ban alcoholic energy drinks.

The loudest calls are coming from the state of Victoria, where the health ministry was being urged to ban these drinks citing the case of 16­year­old Sara Milosevic, who died in June 2

Amy Peacock, lead researcher in the study, said that 403 Australians aged 18 to 35 were part of the research, where researchers found significantly increased odds of irritability and tension, associated with overstimulation.

The research saw respondents from across the country, who had consumed alcohol-energy and alcohol-only drinks in the preceding six months, participate in an online survey prepared by the researchers.

Jolt and crash

Respondents in the study were also found to be associated with ‘jolt and crash’ episodes where drinkers experience increased stimulation followed by a sharp, sudden drop in energy.

“Respondents were found to be six times more likely to have heart palpitations and four times more likely to have sleep difficulties when drinking alcohol-energy drinks compared with drinking alcohol only,” the study said.

On a slightly more positive and lone note though, energy drinks appeared to counter some of the sedative effects of alcohol, including reducing the odds of slurred speech, impaired walking and vision, and nausea.

Further, mixing the drinks produced significantly higher odds of feeling ‘on edge’ psychologically and irritable, and significantly lower odds of feeling sociable and content, the research said.

“While drinkers had similar rates of feeling more impulsive and novelty-seeking they had significantly lower odds of feeling disinhibited behaving than alcohol-only drinkers,” the study said.

Risky business

On the 26 risk-taking behaviours that researchers tested the respondents on, the alcohol-energy drink drinkers reported more surprising results.

“People reported engaging in risk-taking behaviour such as driving while intoxicated, casual sex, using illicit drugs and engaging in verbal or physical aggression during both alcohol drinking sessions and mixed alcohol and energy drink sessions,” said Peacock.

“But the odds of these risk behaviours occurring were lower when using the mixed drinks,” Peacock revealed, making clear though that it did not suggest that consumers should mix alcohol with energy drinks to reduce these risks associated with drinking.

Amy said that though more research was needed to examine the potential mechanisms explaining the effects of mixing drinks on risk-taking, the finding regarding risk-taking contradicts the limited international research available.

The research will be published later this year in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

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