Does drinking alcohol mixed with energy drinks cause more alcohol consumption? Do drinkers feel less intoxicated? Does it lead to more risk-taking? These are important questions. And they’re hotly debated. The concerns have led to laws, regulations, and public policies.
Many people and groups suggest that caffeine in energy drinks can mask the effects of alcohol. They argue this may make people drink more. This is a plausible idea. Research can see 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%. But samples of adults of all ages in various countries exist. They report rates under 15%. Yet large numbers of people clearly engage in the practice.
I. The Research: Alcohol Mixed with Energy Drinks
Researchers wanted to study the impact of drinking alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AMED). To do so, they made a careful review and meta-analysis of the evidence.
They searched PubMed, Embase, and Psycological Abstracts. In doing so they used the keywords “energy drink” and “alcohol. They then analyzed the resulting 747 publications.
Their meta-analysis found that AMED consumers drank significantly more alcohol. That is, in comparison to those who drank alcohol only (AO). But 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 many fewer negative outcomes and risk-taking behavior. That is, 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 outcomes.
- Did not effect subjective intoxication.
So AMED isn’t dangerous.
Source: Verster, J. et al. Alcohol mixed with energy drink (AMED). A critical review and meta-analysis. Hum Psychopharm Clin Exper, 2018.
CDC. Fact Sheets – Alcohol and Caffeine. (Not supported by research.)
Effects of Combining Alcohol and Energy Drinks
Verster, J., et al. Energy drinks mixed with alcohol. Misconceptions, myths, and facts. Int J Gen Med, 2012, 5, 187-198.
Note: This site takes no position on the issue of alcohol mixed with energy drinks.