Not only has the consumption of energy drinks by youth come under greater scrutiny in recent years, but their joint consumption with alcohol by young adults has also roused concern among public health advocates. In a recent study we found that energy drinks combined with alcohol augment a person’s desire to drink more alcohol relative to drinking alcohol alone.
Alice Coen, as part of her Psychology Honours degree at ANU, conducted an experiment where she randomly assigned participants (who were aged 18 – 30 years) to receive a cocktail containing either 60 ml of vodka and a Red Bull® Silver Edition energy drink or 60 ml of vodka with soda water. Both cocktails also contained fruit drink to disguise their composition.
Participant’s rated their desire to drink alcohol on the “Alcohol Urge Questionnaire” both prior to drinking the cocktail and 20 minutes after drinking the cocktail. Participants who received the vodka and Red Bull cocktail showed a significantly greater increase in their desire to drink alcohol than the participants who received the cocktail that contained only vodka.
These results show that combining energy drinks, like Red Bull, with alcohol can increase people’s desire to keep drinking compared to if they had drunk alcohol alone.
The findings are important because they identify a mechanism through which energy drinks could be linked to an increased risk of binge-drinking in young adults. It is hard to say how much energy drinks would affect person’s subsequent alcohol consumption in a real-life situation. This is because many factors impact on a person’s decision about whether or not they keep drinking. However, a person’s desire for more alcohol is a critical factor in that decision.