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Alcohol plus energy drink riskier than alcohol alone

Drinking energy beverages mixed with alcohol may be riskier than drinking alcohol alone.
Drinking alcohol can lead to behavioral impairment and is associated with an increased risk of accidents and injuries among other things. But drinking energy drinks along with alcoholic beverages may enhance the impairment, according to a new study.
The study, published in the July 2011 issue of Alcoholism, suggests that energy drinks can not impair impulse control, but also enhance stimulation, causing the drinker to consume excess.
Cecile A. Marczinski, Ph.D., of Northern Kentucky University and colleagues assigned 56 college students aged 21 to 33 into one of four different treatments - 0.65 g/kg alcohol, 3.57 ml/kg energy drink, energy drink/alcohol, or a placebo beverage - and then assessed their behavior.  The participants also rated their feelings of stimulation, sedation, impairment and intoxication.
The researchers found drinking alcohol with or without energy drinks impaired impulse control compared with those who did not consume alcohol.
But those who drank both an energy drink and alcohol felt more stimulated than those who drank alcohol alone. Energy drinks also led to higher compulsivity.
Use of caffeine, a major ingredient in energy drinks, together with alcohol has drawn the attention of the FDA. The agency, on Nov 17, 2010, issued a warning to four companies that make caffeinated alcoholic beverages including Four Loko manufacturer Phusion Projects LLC saying that the caffeine added to their malt alcoholic beverage is an unsafe food additive.
The FDA said caffeine is not a GRAS or generally recognized as safe ingredient in alcoholic beverages.
In response, the companies voluntarily discontinued making their caffeinated alcoholic beverages.
David L. Weldy MD, Ph.D., of the University of Toledo College of Medicine in Ohio publicized an article in the April 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine saying ingesting alcohol and energy drinks together decreased awareness of the physical and mental impairment caused by alcohol.

David Liu and editing by Denise Reynolds