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Sunday, November 21, 2010

High-caffeine energy drinks linked to alcohol abuse: study

WASHINGTON (AFP) - – Regularly consuming high-caffeine energy drinks significantly increases the risk of becoming alcohol-dependent and engaging in bouts of heavy drinking, a study published Tuesday found.

The study of more than 1,000 students at a US university found that those who consumed the caffeinated drinks on a weekly or daily basis drank alcohol more often and in greater quantities, and were more likely to become alcohol dependent than students who used energy drinks occasionally or not at all.

High consumers of energy drinks also had greater risk for alcohol-related problems such as blackouts or missing class because they were hung over, and were more susceptible to self-injury than non- or light users of energy drinks, said the study led by University of Maryland researcher Amelia Arria.

The study, which was released online ahead of publication next year in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, adds to earlier research that found links between heavy energy drink consumption and substance abuse and high-risk behavior.

The energy drinks, including Red Bull, Monster and Rockstar, deliver the equivalent caffeine dose of a cup and a half of brewed coffee but do not have to disclose their caffeine content on their label, which could lead to consumers of the drinks taking in more caffeine than they realize.

The researchers also noted that youngsters are tending more and more to mix energy drinks with alcohol, thinking that the caffeine, which keeps them awake, is counteracting the effects of the alcohol.

"They're under the misguided notion that they're not impaired when they are just as impaired as a person with the same blood-alcohol concentration. It's their subjective perception of drunkenness that is impaired," Arria told AFP.

Arria and her co-authors on the study called for greater regulation of caffeine-containing beverages to safeguard public health, and for consumers to be more aware of the dangers of the drinks.

"These drinks are distributed widely and the consequences of using them cost everyone, economically and socially. This doesn't affect a minority -- these things are pretty popular," Arria told AFP.

Nearly two thirds of the more than 1,000 students interviewed for the study used energy drinks at some time in the past year, and 10 percent consumed them on a weekly or daily basis.

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