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Alcohol and energy drink combo boosts urge to drink

Popular energy drinks that “give you wings” also give you a greater desire to keep drinking when mixed with alcohol, an Australian study finds.

The study, published today in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research adds to concerns in the field of public health over the growing popularity of combining alcohol with energy drinks.

Senior author Dr Rebecca McKetin, a research fellow at the Centre for Research on Ageing, Health and Wellbeing at the Australian National University, says previous studies have shown young adults who mix alcohol with energy drinks have a tendency to drink more.

While the mechanism behind this was unknown, a US study published last year showed that the addition of energy drinks to alcohol boosted the “priming effect”.

McKetin says this “priming effect” is a measure of how an alcoholic drink incites the urge to keep drinking.

She says there was some skepticism about the US results at the time, so it was important to replicate the study.

“People were a bit skeptical because these findings have strong implications for combining energy drinks with alcohol and whenever anything has strong implications it tends to be looked at more critically,” she says.

Although McKetin says it was a well-controlled study, she did think its measure of the urge to drink alcohol “was a bit weak”.

The Australian study involved 75 participants (46 women, 29 men) aged 18 to 30 years.

They were given a double shot of vodka (60 millilitres) combined with either soda water or an energy drink in a cocktail that also contained 200 millilitres of a fruit drink.

The participants were asked to complete a series of questionnaires before and after consuming the alcoholic drink, to gauge their ongoing desire to drink.

McKetin says the results show while there was an overall increase among all participants to keep drinking, those consuming the alcohol and energy drink combination showed “significantly higher ratings”.

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