Nova Scotia

Energy drinks with alcohol risky: study

A study at Dalhousie University finds that students who mix alcohol with energy drinks nearly double the alcohol they consume.

A study by a professor at Dalhousie University indicates students who drink alcohol with energy drinks nearly double the amount of alcohol they consume.

The 72 students at the Halifax university who were interviewed for the study said they consumed more than eight drinks on occasions they mixed alcohol and energy drinks.

"When they are just drinking alcohol without mixing energy drinks, they reported drinking in the neighbourhood of 4.5 drinks," said Sean Barrett, an associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Dalhousie. "So it nearly doubled the amount of alcohol they were reportedly consuming."

One theory from the study is that energy drinks contain ingredients that release brain chemicals that prolong the initial euphoria that comes with rising blood-alcohol levels and hold off the sedative-like effects when they fall.

Barrett said warning labels on energy drinks aren't preventing bars from selling them, and more research is needed.

A doctor told student Andrew Monro to give them up because he has a heart murmur.

"A lot of my friends are big on Rockstars with vodka in them and Jagerbombs," said Monro. "I find people know that they're risky, but they drink them anyway."

Students report that binge drinking is common, but the research shows they don't recognize or aren't deterred by the risk in consuming energy drinks before heading out for a night on the town.

"I can't say I haven't, but I know it's not a smart thing to do," said Brooke Martin, another student at Dalhousie.

"I do it because I'm usually tired before I go and I want to get energized," said student Clarissa Crocker. "Yes, it probably keeps you up longer so you probably have a longer time to drink."

Barrett said fatigue is the body's way of telling a person they've had enough.

"The problem with energy drinks mixed with alcohol is one possibility is they are just preventing you from experiencing the normal cues that would tell you to stop drinking," said Barrett.

Research has yet to determine if it’s the drinks' caffeine or taurine, an amino acid, that might be affecting the brain and leading to binge behaviours.