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Study says alcoholic energy drinks pose 'serious risks'

By Guy Montague-Jones , 14-Dec-2009
Last updated on 14-Dec-2009 at 18:54 GMT

A new study in Behavioral Neuroscience has warned that there are “serious risks” associated with mixing caffeine and alcohol.

Adding caffeine to alcohol is increasingly popular, and several major brewers have launched caffeinated alcoholic drinks to meet growing demand. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has picked up on this trend, and last month, it ordered 30 beverage companies to provide information demonstrating that their caffeinated alcoholic drinks are safe.

Research on laboratory rats, published in the American Psychological Association journal Behavioral Neuroscience, now adds to concerns about combining alcohol and caffeine.

Behavioural study

Scientists gave groups of young adult mice various doses, both separately and together, of caffeine and of ethanol (pure alcohol) at levels known to induce intoxication.

Placing the mice in cage, they then observed their ability to learn to avoid hazards, their general locomotion, and anxiety, measured by the time spent in the open areas.

Caffeine made mice more alert but did not reverse the learning problems caused by alcohol, including a curtailed ability to learn from lights and sounds to avoid things that could hurt them.

Study conclusions

“People who have consumed only alcohol, who feel tired and intoxicated, may be more likely to acknowledge that they are drunk,” said co-author Thomas Gould, PhD, of Temple University.

“Conversely, people who have consumed both alcohol and caffeine may feel awake and competent enough to handle potentially harmful situations.”

This mistaken belief could heighten the risk of reduced competency translating into accidents and injury.

“The bottom line is that, despite the appeal of being able to stay up all night and drink, all evidence points to serious risks associated with caffeine-alcohol combinations,” said Gould.

Source: Behavioral Neuroscience

Vol. 123, No. 6.

“Effects of Ethanol and Caffeine on Behavior in C57BL/6 Mice in the Plus-Maze Discriminative Avoidance Task,”

Authors: D Gulick and T. J. Gould

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