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Energy drinks with alcohol? Think again

health-and-fitness Updated: Nov 15, 2010 15:21 IST
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The young party set have long been mixing energy drinks with alcohol. While studies and media reports reveal the risks, a new breed of pre-mixed alcohol and caffeine concoctions dubbed "blackout in a can" are now crashing the party.

Mixing caffeine with alcohol is nothing new (i.e., rum and Coke) but combining high-potency caffeinated drinks such as Red Bull, Rock Star, Jolt, Monster, and Amp with alcohol is risky party behavior, experts say.

Caffeine can reduce the natural sedative effects of alcohol, which allows someone to drink for a longer period of time. Plus the combination can stimulate the body's dopamine system, which can inspire more drinking, and may facilitate the false perception that a person is less intoxicated then he or she actually is, said Thomas Gould, an associate professor of psychology at US-based Temple University, Philadelphia, in an interview with Scientific American.

DrinkAlso making the rounds at college parties are pre-mixed canned party beverages, such as the malt-liquor energy drink called Four Loko that contains caffeine, guarana, and taurine. On November 10, Washington became the fourth US state to restrict the sale of the drink after a group of a college freshman wound up in the hospital with near-fatal blood-alcohol levels after drinking Four Loko at a party.

Four Phusion Projects, which makes Four Loko, will give only an estimate of how much caffeine is in its drink - one can has about the same caffeine as a six-pack of Diet Coke. Four Loko's drinks contain 12% alcohol and are packaged in 23.5-ounce cans - that is reportedly equivalent to drinking almost an entire bottle of wine."

The wide availability of alcoholic energy drinks means that a single mistake can be deadly," said Washington's Attorney General Rob McKenna in a statement. "If you're a 135-pound woman [and] you drink two of these Four Lokos ... you can reach the level of toxicity for alcohol poisoning."

Jeff Wright, co-owner of Phusion Projects, told National Public Radio that his company should not be blamed for the incident. "It's kind of unfair in this example that our product is being singled out," Wright said. "I mean, according to the police report, there was hard alcohol at this function. There were multiple different types of alcohol there."