HEALTH

Drinking Energy Drinks With Alcohol 'Masks' Effects Of Drunkenness And 'Increases Risk Of Injury'

'People may underestimate how intoxicated they are.'

21/03/2017 8:44 PM AEDT | Updated 21/03/2017 8:44 PM AEDT

If you order alcohol topped with an energy drink on a night out, you could be putting yourself at extra risk of injury.

That’s according to new research which found a link between the use of alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AmED) and an increased risk of injury, compared to drinking alcohol only.

The study classified injuries as unintentional (such as falls or motor vehicle accidents) and intentional (such as fights or other physical violence).

The researchers noted that energy drinks stave off the feelings of tiredness most people experience with alcohol, therefore skewing our perception of how much we’ve had to drink.

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Researchers at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research of BC (CARBC), in Canada, analysed data from previous studies on alcohol and energy drinks to draw their conclusions.

“The stimulant effects of caffeine mask the result that most people get when they drink,” lead study author Audra Roemer said.

“Usually when you’re drinking alcohol, you get tired and you go home.

“Energy drinks mask that, so people may underestimate how intoxicated they are, end up staying out later, consume more alcohol, and engage in risky behaviour and more hazardous drinking practices.”

Roemer said she became interested in the topic while reading research on the effects of alcohol and cocaine.

“Cocaine is obviously a strong stimulant, and I was curious about lower level stimulants that are more socially acceptable,” she said.

“I wondered if they were having a similar impact but to a lesser degree.”

Three of the studies looked at whether risk-taking or sensation-seeking tendencies play a role in injuries associated with AmED use.

“We know that these are risk factors for alcohol-related injuries, and some research has suggested that people who have these traits might prefer the awake-drunk state that you get from mixing alcohol and energy drinks,” Roemer said.

“This could be a population that’s at even higher risk for injuries.”

The biggest surprise for Roemer and her colleagues was the lack of research in this area, as well as the wide variability in these studies that made it difficult to compare results.

Consequently, they were not able to statistically determine the extent of the risk associated with AmED use.

“At the end of the day, we looked at all of the studies, but more research is needed to confirm our findings,” she said.

Roemer says the current study is the first of three planned articles that they hope to publish on the link between AmED and the risk of injury.

“We’re currently running a controlled emergency department study to look at the relationship a little more closely,” she said.

“Hopefully that will bring more answers. The research we’ve done so far points to an increased risk of injuries with the use of AmED that could be a serious public health concern.

“Our hope is to conduct and facilitate future research in order to identify limitations and get a closer look at the topic to see what’s really going on.”

The research is published in full in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

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