The Subjective Physiological, Psychological, and Behavioral Risk-Taking Consequences of Alcohol and Energy Drink Co-Ingestion
Peacock, AK and Bruno, R and Martin, FH, The Subjective Physiological, Psychological, and Behavioral Risk-Taking Consequences of Alcohol and Energy Drink Co-Ingestion, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 36, (11) pp. 2008-2015. ISSN 1530-0277 (2012) [Refereed Article]
Background: The increasingly popular practice among adolescents and young adults of consuming
alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AmED) has raised concern regarding potential increases in maladaptive
drinking practices, negative psychological and physiological intoxication side effects, and risky
behavioral outcomes. Comparison of user types has revealed that AmED users report engaging in more
risk-taking behavior relative to alcohol users. However, the comparative likelihood of risk-taking
according to session type (i.e., AmED vs. alcohol session) remains relatively unknown. Thus, this study
was designed with the aim of establishing the subjective physiological, psychological, and behavioral
risk-taking outcomes of AmED consumption relative to alcohol consumption for AmED users drawn
from the community.
Methods: Between May and June 2011, 403 Australians aged 18 to 35 who had consumed AmED
and alcohol only in the preceding 6 months completed a 10- to 30-minute online survey about their use
of these substances.
Results: Despite participants consuming a significantly greater quantity of alcohol in AmED sessions
compared to alcohol sessions, the odds of participants experiencing disinhibition and engaging in
26 risk behaviors were significantly lower during AmED sessions relative to alcohol sessions. Similarly,
the odds of experiencing several physiological (i.e., speech and walking difficulties, nausea, and slurred
speech) and psychological (i.e., confusion, exhaustion, sadness) sedation outcomes were less during
AmED sessions compared to alcohol sessions. However, the odds of enduring physiological (i.e., heart
palpitations, sleep difficulties, agitation, tremors, jolt and crash episodes, and increased speech speed)
and psychological (i.e., irritability and tension) outcomes potentially related to overstimulation were
significantly greater during AmED sessions than alcohol sessions.
Conclusions: Co-ingestion may provide a double-edged effect. The increased stimulation from
energy drinks (EDs) may negate some intoxication-related sedation side effects by increasing alertness.
However, it could also lead to negative physiological side effects associated with overstimulation.
Notwithstanding any stimulatory effects of EDs, risk and negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption
were present in both session types. However, the odds of engaging in risk-taking were less during
AmED sessions relative to alcohol sessions. Objective measurement of behavioral risk-taking via laboratory-
based measures could confirm the causal relationship between AmED and risk-taking.