Effects of Energy Drinks Mixed with Alcohol on Behavioral Control: Risks for College Students Consuming Trendy Cocktails

Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 04/26/2011

An energy drink appears to alter some of the objective and subjective impairing effects of alcohol, but not others. Thus, alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AmED) may contribute to a high–risk scenario for the drinker. The mix of impaired behavioral inhibition and enhanced stimulation is a combination that may make AmED consumption riskier than alcohol consumption alone.

Methods

  • Participants (n = 56) attended 1 session where they were randomly assigned to receive one of 4 doses (0.65 g/kg alcohol, 3.57 ml/kg energy drink, AmED, or a placebo beverage).
  • Performance on a cued go/no–go task was used to measure the response of inhibitory and activational mechanisms of behavioral control following dose administration.
  • Subjective ratings of stimulation, sedation, impairment, and level of intoxication were recorded.

Results

  • Alcohol alone impaired both inhibitory and activational mechanisms of behavioral control, as evidenced by increased inhibitory failures and increased response times compared to baseline performance.
  • Coadministration of the energy drink with alcohol counteracted some of the alcohol–induced impairment of response activation, but not response inhibition.
  • For subjective effects, alcohol increased ratings of stimulation, feeling the drink, liking the drink, impairment, and level of intoxication, and alcohol decreased the rating of ability to drive.
  • Coadministration of the energy drink with alcohol increased self–reported stimulation, but resulted in similar ratings of the other subjective effects as when alcohol was administered alone.

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