Researchers at the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research of BC (CARBC) in Canada, gathered peer-reviewed journal articles about alcohol and energy drinks published between 1981 and 2016. Ten of the studies them showed evidence of a link between the consumption of alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AmED) and an increased risk of injury compared to drinking just alcohol.
"The stimulant effects of caffeine mask the result that most people get when they drink," says lead study author Audra Roemer. "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."
The study categorised the injuries as unintentional, such as falls or motor vehicle accidents, and intentional, including fights or other physical violence.
AmED use is popular in many countries, with consumers choosing to buy them in premixed drinks sold in liquor stores or by combining the two beverages by hand, with vodka and Red Bull proving to be a common example.
"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 explained. "This could be a population that's at even higher risk for injuries."
What shocked Roemer and her colleagues was the lack of research in this area, as well as the inconsistencies in these studies that made it difficult to compare results. As a result, the team was not able to statistically establish 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.
The full study has been published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
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