I. The Question.
Does drinking alcohol mixed with energy drinks cause more alcohol consumption? Do drinkers feel more intoxicated? Does it lead to more risk-taking behavior? These are important questions. And they’re hotly debated. The concerns have led to laws, regulations, and public policies.
Many people and organizations suggest that caffeine in energy drinks can mask the effects of alcohol. They argue this may make people drink more alcohol. This is a plausible idea. Research can determine if it’s really true.
Mixing the beverages appears to be widespread. For example, surveys of students and young adults in the U.S. have been have been made. They report incidence rates of between 8.1% and 64.7%. Among young adults in Australia, the range is from 21.1% to 77%. However, random samples of adults of all ages in various countries exist. They report rates under 15%. Nevertheless, large numbers of people are engaging in the practice.
II. The Research.
To investigate the impact of drinking alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AMED), researchers made a systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence.
Their meta-analysis found that AMED consumers drank significantly more alcohol. That is, in comparison to those who drank alcohol only (AO). However, AMED consumers drank the same amount of alcohol when they mixed it with an energy drink and when they didn’t.
Some questions asked about the heaviest drinking occasions during the previous month. On those occasions, AMED consumers drank much less alcohol when they mixed it with energy drinks than when they didn’t.
AMED consumers also had significantly fewer negative consequences and risk-taking behavior when they mixed than when they didn’t. The same was true for risk-taking behaviors.
Finally, the researchers made meta-analyses of subjective intoxication studies. Does AMED fool people into thinking they’re less intoxicated? That’s a very important question.
The research found the subjective intoxication of AMED consumers was the same whether they mixed beverages or not.
In conclusion, when compared to AO consumption, AMED
- Did not increase total alcohol consumption.
- Had no impact on risk-taking or other negative consequences.
- Did not effect subjective intoxication.
Therefore, research doesn’t support the belief that AMED is undesirable or a dangerous practice.
Source: Alcohol mixed with energy drink (AMED): a critical review and meta-analysis. Verster, J. et al. Human Psychopharm: Clin Exper, pubmearly online February 8, 2018. DOI: 10.1002/hup.2650
III. Resources on Mixing Alcohol with Enery Drinks.
CDC. Fact Sheets – Alcohol and Caffeine. (webpage) Not supported by research evidence.
Verster, J., et al. Energy drinks mixed with alcohol: Misconceptions, myths, and facts. Int J Gen Med, 2012, 5, 187-198.