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Energy drink cocktails up the risk of injuries

By Amanda Hickey

Students who mix alcohol and energy drinks are at a higher risk for injury and other consequences, compared to students who drink only alcohol, according to new research from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

“Students who consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks were twice as likely to be hurt or injured, twice as likely to require medical attention, and twice as likely to ride with an intoxicated driver, as were students who did not alcohol mixed with energy drinks,” the study read.

“Students who drank alcohol mixed with energy drinks were more than twice as likely to take advantage of someone else sexually and almost twice as likely to be taken advantage of sexually,” it continued.

According to lead researcher Mary Claire O’Brien, the results came as a surprise.

“We knew anecdotally – from speaking with students and from researching internet blogs and websites – that college students mix energy drinks and alcohol in order to drink more, and to drink longer,” O’Brien said.

“But we were surprised that the risk of serious and potentially deadly consequences is so much higher for those who mixed energy drinks with alcohol, even when we adjusted for the amount of alcohol,” she continued.

Students who drink alcohol mixed with energy drinks drink 1.3 drinks more than those who do not mix their alcohol, according to the study.

The research was based on a web-based survey of 4,271 students from 10 universities.

The students were asked approximately 300 questions about alcohol use, consequences and other health risk behaviors.

Twenty-four percent of the students who reported drinking said that they consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks, according to the study.

“Students who were male, white, intramural athletes, Greek society members or pledges, or older were significantly more likely to consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks,” it read.

According to O’Brien, mixing caffeine with alcohol is like getting into a car and stepping on the gas pedal and brake at the same time.

“Students whose motor skills, visual reaction times and judgment are impaired by alcohol may not perceive that they are intoxicated as readily when they’re also ingesting a stimulant,” said O’Brien.

“Only the symptoms of drunkenness are reduced but not the drunkenness. They can’t tell if they’re drunk; they can’t tell if someone else is drunk. So they get hurt, or they hurt someone else,” she continued.

Twenty-nine state attorneys general, so far, have condemned the alcoholic energy drinks.

O’Brien also suggested that campuses reconsider the distribution of free energy drinks at campus events.

Co-researchers for the project were Thomas P. McCoy, M.S.; Scott Rhodes, Ph.D.; Ashley Wagoner, B.S.; and Mark Wolfson, Ph.D.



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Updated: Wednesday, November 28, 2007
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