Australian academics have called for greater analysis of the potential harm caused by mixing energy drinks with alcohol after new research found the practice can turn a few quick drinks into a much longer session.
The new study, by researchers at Australian National University, identified that a combination of alcohol and energy drinks like Red Bull will often boost the desire to carry on drinking for longer than anticipated.
Increased risk of binge drinking
The study followed 75 participants aged between 18 and 30 years who were given either regular mixers or energy drinks with their liquor.
One group received a cocktail containing 60ml of vodka and a Red Bull Silver Edition energy drink, while the other received 60ml of vodka with soda water. Both cocktails also contained 200 ml of a fruit drink.
They were also asked to fill in a questionnaire to ascertain their urge to continue drinking—one before the test and another 20 minutes after drinking. Other questionnaires were completed after the exercise.
“A number of cross-sectional studies show that young adults who mix alcohol with energy drinks [A+EDs] have higher levels of alcohol consumption than their peers who don't mix energy drinks with alcohol, and some studies suggest that this practice increases the risk of binge drinking,” explained Dr Rebecca McKetin, who authored the paper.
“If it is the case that energy drinks increase binge drinking, the popularity of A+EDs could exacerbate alcohol-related harm among young people, particularly harm related to intoxication, such as car accidents and injuries from fights or falls.”
Lawmakers have to ‘get serious’
The low quantities of alcohol involved in the tests were due to restraints placed on researchers by ethics committees, prompting the experts to warn the results could be much worse out of the lab in pubs and clubs.
Peter G Miller, associate professor of psychology at Deakin University, said the findings suggest the need for policymakers to “get serious about addressing this issue”.
"Along with other research released recently from Western Australia showing increased harm from nights when people consumed energy drinks, it is becoming more apparent about how associations between energy drink consumption and greater levels of intoxication and harm can be explained.
“The concerns of researchers regarding social order and public health appear to be warranted, despite industry lobbying to the contrary."
Miller also noted the recent ban by Lithuania on the sale of energy drinks to anyone under 18 years of age.