Energy Drinks With Alcohol Equals More Drunk Driving

energy drinks with alcohol cause drunk drivingEnergy drinks are still flying under the radar in this country. The FDA doesn’t monitor them; anyone of any age can buy them; schools don’t object to them, and doctors rarely ask patients about energy drink use.

Perhaps they’re not worthy of too much attention to their own, although some authorities are concerned that they do indeed pose risks.

But one trend that is definitely of concern is the fashion of combining energy drinks with alcohol. The idea is to enjoy the fun effects of alcohol – the disinhibition, the elevated mood – without the sedative effects. This allows one to drink more on any given night.

Two probably obvious things should be stated about this trend. First, it’s generally young people who chug Red Bull with their vodka. A recent study by the Research Society on Alcoholism found that 57 percent of college students surveyed had combined energy drinks with alcohol.

Worse, more frequent energy drink consumption was associated with more drunk driving, for two reasons:

  1. Those who combined energy drinks with alcohol drank more heavily, and heavier drinkers are more likely to indulge in risky behavior like drunk driving
  2. Those who drank energy drinks without alcohol were more likely to drive drunk. This was an unexpected and disturbing finding.

An earlier study by the NIH also found that drinking energy drinks led to a desire for more alcohol.

The fact that energy drinks are favored by the same demographic that is most likely to binge drink and drive while impaired (fatal crashes due to alcohol are highest in the 21 to 24 age group –fully a third of all alcohol-related fatalities) should be worrying. At present, there are many awareness programs that try to persuade young people not to drink and drive. They should start looking at the alcohol/energy drink combination too, as it is probably claiming more lives than we know about.