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Alcohol-Energy Drink Combo Riskier Than Booze Alone, Study Says
Date:4/17/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- Combining the caffeine jolt of energy drinks with the intoxicating effects of alcohol is riskier than drinking alcohol alone, a new study suggests.

Adding to growing research on the effects of trendy cocktails such as vodka and the energy drink Red Bull, scientists from Northern Kentucky University split 56 college students between the ages of 21 and 33 into four groups. The students received either an alcoholic beverage, an energy drink, a mixed drink with both ingredients, or a placebo.

All drinks were made to look and taste like alcoholic energy drinks, so participants did not know which they were consuming. Researchers measured how quickly the students could execute and suppress actions after the dose and asked them to rate feelings such as stimulation, sedation, impairment and levels of intoxication.

All of the students who drank alcohol showed impaired impulse control. But those who drank the alcoholic energy drink perceived themselves to be less impaired than those who drank the same dose of alcohol alone, the study authors said, which could make them more likely to take risks such as driving while intoxicated.

"This study demonstrates these drinks are different . . . and consumers should be aware," said study author Cecile Marczinski, an assistant professor in the department of psychological science. "It might be appropriate to put warning labels on energy drinks saying they should not be mixed with alcohol."

While combining alcohol with caffeinated beverages is nothing new -- hence the ubiquitous rum and Coke -- energy drinks contain about three times the amount of caffeine as cola, making them especially stimulating, Marczinski said.

Prior surveys suggest that 30 to 50 percent of U.S. teenagers and young people consume energy drinks, which may also contain stimulants such as guarana. The U.S. Food and Drug
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