Study Finds 'Energy Cocktails' Increase Urge To Drink

By McCarton Ackerman 07/22/14

An Australian study has raised another flag in the dangerous practice of combing booze and energy drinks.

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A new study from Australia confirms that combining energy drinks with alcohol gives people a greater urge to keep on drinking and ultimately increases binge alcohol use. The findings were published in the latest edition of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Australian researchers analyzed 75 participants between the ages of 18-30, half of whom were given a vodka-Red Bull concoction and the other half given a vodka with soda water. The drinkers also completed an Alcohol Urge Questionnaire both before and 20 minutes after their time in the lab party, as well as a Biphasic Alcohol Effects Questionnaire, Drug Effects Questionnaire, and breath alcohol concentration (BAC) test.

Their responses showed that those given the energy cocktails had a greater urge to drink. "A greater urge to drink has substantial implications when we think about the nature of drinking episodes," said Peter G. Miller, associate professor of psychology at Deakin University, Geelong Waterfront Campus in Australia. "The drunker you get, the more likely you are to get injured, be a victim or perpetrator of an assault, or even drive home while drunk, let alone making bad choices about the people you associate with and possible sexual behavior."

The findings from the study are in line with several cross-sectional studies from the U.S., which also showed that young adults who consume energy cocktails drink more alcohol than those who do not. Rebecca McKetin, lead researcher and a fellow at the Australian National University's Centre for Research on Aging, Health and Well-Being, believes the results dispel the notion that such drinkers are simply less inhibited and more party-hungry than others.

Last month, the company behind “alcopop” energy drink Four Loco agreed to a settlement with 20 states to halt production of the drink and change their marketing approach, addressing concerns they were purposely marketing their product to underage drinkers. The FDA previously warned the company in 2010 that their product was unsafe, leading to caffeine being removed from the formula.

Phusion Projects, the makers of Four Loco, maintained their innocence in a statement and said they didn’t violate any laws. They declared that the way to address both binge and underage drinking “lies in increased education, stronger enforcement of existing laws and personal responsibility.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.