WebMD Medical News
Laura J. Martin, MD
Nov. 30, 2010 -- Scientists warn that young adults are likely to keep mixing caffeine and alcohol even though a number of caffeinated alcoholic beverages have been withdrawn from the marketplace under federal pressure.
The researchers also say a lot of study still needs to be done on the risks of mixing caffeine and alcohol. According to the CDC, when alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, the caffeine from the energy drinks can mask the depressant effects of alcohol. Drinkers who mix alcohol with energy drinks are three times more likely to binge drink.
The article is published online today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, just days after the FDA warned four manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages on Nov. 17 that their products were unsafe and caused risky behaviors.
The FDA has said in a more recent statement that “significant progress” has been made since the warnings were issued and that many alcoholic drinks laced with caffeine have been withdrawn. According to the FDA:
Jonathan Howland, PhD, of the department of community health sciences at Boston University and author of the new report, tells WebMD that young people were mixing caffeine and alcohol before companies began making combo drinks and many will continue to do so, regardless of recent federal actions.
“The paper is saying a couple of things,” Howland tells WebMD. “One is, as long as alcoholic beverages and energy drinks are sold, people will put them together.”
Also, “we are saying that there are a lot of hypotheses about the effects of mixing caffeine and alcohol, and we need to do more research to find out what these effects are, and who the people are who are more apt to mix the two substances.”
“We don’t really know whether the caffeinated alcohol beverages are making you engage in risky behaviors or because risk-taking people go after these beverages, and we need to find out,” Howland tells WebMD. “These and other questions need to be rigorously studied.”
He says recent warnings by FDA and removal of products may “make some people think” before mixing caffeine and alcohol, but “I kind of doubt it and think the mixing is going to continue.”
Howland says “the problem began with the so-called energy drinks that contain various stimulants, primarily caffeine.”
According to the new report:
Howland tells WebMD that little is known about why some young adults are more likely to prefer caffeine with alcohol, though clever marketing by manufacturers of energy drinks and of caffeinated alcoholic beverages may influence otherwise safety-conscious people.
“Marketing includes unsubstantiated claims that energy drinks will increase attention, endurance, performance, weight loss, and fun, and will reduce performance decrements due to fatigue or alcohol,” the researchers write.
Howland says research is needed to examine:
The researchers conclude that “evidence-based information” is needed for effective policymaking and public education.
SOURCES:News release, American Journal of Preventive Medicine.Howland, J. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2010.Jonathan Howland, PhD, department of community health sciences, department of emergency medicine, Boston UniversityCDC Fact Sheet: "Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages." O’Brien, M. Academic Emergency Medicine, 2008; vol 15(5): pp 453-460.Thombs, D. Addictive Behaviors, 2010; vol 35(4): pp 325-330.
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