vodka Red Bull cocktail
July 18, 2014

Mixing Vodka With Energy Drinks Found To Increase Desire Of Alcohol

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Adding alcoholic beverages to caffeinated energy drinks increases a person’s desire to continue consuming the beverages, according to research published online Thursday in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

According to Lizzie Parry of the Daily Mail, researchers from the Australian National University looked at the effects of mixing energy drinks with vodka, and found that drinkers demonstrated an increased desire for alcohol when imbibing the mixture relative to drinking alcohol by itself.

“Based on our study, we can't be certain whether it was the caffeine or the sugary additives that made the energy drink and vodka cocktail more appealing than drinking alcohol alone,” lead author Rebecca McKetin of the university’s Center for Research on Aging, Health and Well-being told HealthDay News reporter Alan Mozes. However, she did suggest one potential mechanism to explain the phenomenon.

“We normally think of alcohol as a depressant, but it also has a stimulant effect, and it is this stimulant effect that is most strongly related to how much we like alcohol, and whether we want to keep drinking,” McKetin added. “Caffeine, being a stimulant, tends to bring out the stimulant effects of alcohol intoxication. It may be this that causes energy drinks to increase the desire to keep drinking alcohol.”

In a statement, McKetin and colleague Alice Coen of the university’s School of Psychology recruited a total of 75 participants (29 male, 46 female) between the ages of 18 and 30. Those individuals were assigned to either an alcohol-only or an alcohol-and-energy drink (A+ED) condition in a double-blind randomized experiment.

Thirty-six of the study participants were given a cocktail containing 60ml of vodka and a Red Bull Silver Edition brand energy drink, while 39 others were asked to consume a mixture of 60ml of vodka with soda water. Both drinks also contained 200ml of fruit drink, and the subject completed the Alcohol Urge Questionnaire both prior to consuming the beverages and again 20 minutes following the completion of the test.

“We found that when people drink A+EDs that they have a stronger desire to keep drinking than if they drank alcohol on its own,” explained McKetin. “This would mean that someone who drinks A+EDs would want to keep drinking more than their friends who don't. What we can't say is whether this translates into people drinking more.”

“Obviously other factors would play a role there – people can over-ride their desires and many things play into a decision about whether someone would keep drinking or not,” she added. “However, if it did translate into greater alcohol consumption, we would expect to see people who drink A+EDs drinking more than their peers who don't.”

“A greater urge to drink has substantial implications when we think about the nature of drinking episodes,” added Deakin University psychology professor Peter Miller. “As people become intoxicated, even at low levels, they show less inhibitions and are likely to drink more in a cycle of greater intoxication. Of course, 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.”

McKetin said that the primarily implications of the study involved potential regulation of the sale of energy drinks alongside alcoholic beverages in night clubs or bars, as well as the overall availability of pre-mixed drinks featuring both caffeine and alcohol. However, the American Beverage Association noted that the research did not track whether or not additional alcohol was actually consumed – only that the desire to do so was there.

“As acknowledged by the authors, this study does not establish a link between energy drink consumption and increased alcohol consumption. Rather, it measures how people feel and not what they actually do,” the industry group said in a statement Thursday, according to Mozes. It added that its member companies “adhere to responsible labeling and marketing guidelines that do not allow energy drink labels to promote mixing with alcohol.”