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Are energy drinks unique mixers in terms of their effects on alcohol consumption and negative alcohol-related consequences?

Authors Johnson SJ, Alford C, Stewart K, Verster JC

Received 7 June 2017

Accepted for publication 8 August 2017

Published 5 January 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 15—23


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Sean J Johnson,1 Chris Alford,1 Karina Stewart,2 Joris C Verster3–5

1Department of Health and Social Sciences, Psychological Sciences Research Group, University of the West of England, 2Department of Applied Sciences, Biomedical and Analytical Sciences, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK; 3Division of Pharmacology, Utrecht University, Utrecht 4Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands; 5Center for Human Psychopharmacology, Swinburne University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Introduction: Previous research has suggested that consuming alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AMED) increases overall alcohol consumption. However, there is limited research examining whether energy drinks are unique in their effects when mixed with alcohol, when compared with alcohol mixed with other caffeinated mixers (AOCM). Therefore, the aim of this survey was to investigate alcohol consumption on AMED occasions, to that on other occasions when the same individuals consumed AOCM or alcohol only (AO).
Methods: A UK-wide online student survey collected data on the frequency of alcohol consumption and quantity consumed, as well as the number of negative alcohol-related consequences reported on AO, AMED and AOCM occasions (N=250).
Within-subjects analysis revealed that there were no significant differences in the number of alcoholic drinks consumed on a standard and a heavy drinking session between AMED and AOCM drinking occasions. However, the number of standard mixers typically consumed was significantly lower on AMED occasions compared with AOCM occasions. In addition, when consuming AMED, students reported significantly fewer days consuming 5 or more alcohol drinks, fewer days mixing drinks, and fewer days being drunk, compared with when consuming AOCM. There were no significant differences in the number of reported negative alcohol-related consequences on AMED occasions to AOCM occasions. Of importance, alcohol consumption and negative alcohol-related consequences were significantly less on both AMED and AOCM occasions compared with AO occasions.
Conclusion: The findings that heavy alcohol consumption occurs significantly less often on AMED occasions compared with AOCM occasions is in opposition to some earlier claims implying that greatest alcohol consumption occurs with AMED. The overall greatest alcohol consumption and associated negative consequences were clearly associated with AO occasions. Negative consequences for AMED and AOCM drinking occasions were similar, suggesting that energy drink was comparable with AOCM in this regard.

Keywords: alcohol, energy drinks, caffeine, alcohol consumption, consequences

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