June 8th, 2010
09:52 AM ET

Mixing energy drinks and alcohol may lead to riskier behavior

By Trisha Henry
CNN Medical Producer

A new study finds that college athletes are significantly more likely to engage in energy-binge drinking when consuming alcohol than non-athletes. Athletes who combined alcohol and energy drinks, 150 of the 401 surveyed, also consumed more than double the amount of alcohol when compared to athletes who consumed alcohol-only. The survey by Oklahoma State and University of Missouri researchers also found that when people drink "energy cocktails" there were significant increases in risk-taking. This was especially true in men.

Researchers found by mixing caffeine with alcohol the college athletes became more intoxicated and therefore engaged in riskier behavior, than with alcohol alone. In addition, the researchers noted, drinking a stimulant and a depressant at the same time can be dangerous because it sends mixed signals to the body and the body doesn't know how to respond. The researchers also found those who drink "energy cocktails" are more likely to be hurt or injured and more likely to ride with an intoxicated driver.

Besides increased overall alcohol consumption and risk-taking, the study also found links to health problems and negative consequences associated with the "energy cocktails". Researchers found the combination of caffeine with alcohol, along with the other substances influenced brain functioning. According to the study, overindulging in these cocktails could affect motivation, concentration, mood and can create or exacerbate mental problems.

With so many of these stimulants in the body, study author, Dr. Conrad Woolsey from Oklahoma State University says, "this can cause a sort of manic depressive state afterwards and over time can lead to anxiety disorders, especially in young people."

According to the National Institute of Health, the brain is still developing until the age of twenty-five. College athletes who expose themselves to these stimulants in increased amounts are putting themselves at a greater risk of depression and anxiety disorders in the future. Woolsey says the danger isn't specifically in the caffeine; it's in the combination of drinks with the other stimulants potentially being more dangerous because people haven't built up tolerances to them. Woolsey says many of these so called energy drinks contain unregulated herbal stimulants.

The energy drink market has ballooned from $200 million in sales in 2002 to $3.5 billion in 2006, according to figures included in the study.

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soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Sarah

    We need a study to tell us things like this? My bad; I forgot that society no longer has common sense.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. holla@ya girl

    Wow who knew.....

    June 8, 2010 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. johnna

    6 years ago my brother was found dead in his apartment. The only explanation the coroner gave my family was that his heart "just stopped", and it was most likely due to the fact that he had been drinking what you call "energy cocktails" with friends the night before (red bull and vodka). Drinking these things doesnt just affect your decision making skills, or cause anxiety disorders, IT CAN KILL YOU.

    PLEASE, everybody who reads this, remember uppers and downers DO NOT MIX

    June 8, 2010 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jon

    Why? This trend has happened in the past too with other stimulants. Stimulants with depressants have a synergistic effect in some cases trippling the effect of one or the other which can have deadly consequences. The people using these combinations, one need to grow up and stop mixing drinks like little kids at a coolaid party and two wake up before they cannot wake up...they mix drinks for attention and some mystical edge that those flakes think they get from mixing energy drinks and alcohol....sad.

    June 8, 2010 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Don

    Energy drinks are disgusting. Why would anyone mix them with alcohol?

    June 8, 2010 at 12:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Poppy

    When i was in college we would routinly drink all night long taking caffine pills through out to stay up. Its a lot of fun, I had such good times in college, I miss it. We would also inhale aerosol room deoderizers. That just made you kinda pass out and fall down, so not as much fun. I found that if I drank all night with the caffine pills I could smoke a one hitter just before going to sleep and I wouldnt have a hangover when I woke up. I could start the process over when I woke up. I did this 5-6 nights a week on average. I graduated with a 3.4 gpa and now I have a great job making 93k per year. So there really isnt any harm in this behavior.

    June 8, 2010 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Jim

    Another misleading study. Forget that the people that drink energy drinks and alcohol together are just more riskier. Its the caffeine and alcohol combination that makes them morons. God forbid they are morons without the combination of the two.

    June 8, 2010 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Bobby C

    alcohol + energy drinks = a great time!

    June 8, 2010 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jim W.

    Alcohol must be necessary to cut the awful taste of the energy drinks.

    June 8, 2010 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Michael S

    One major flaw in this study. Are the people who partake in this risky behaviour, including mixing caffiene and alcohol, more prone to this type of behaviour to begin with?

    As a former "cherry bomb", vodka-red bull, and jager-bomb drinker, I can appreciate the feeling you get when you drink caffiene and liquor. I never did anything extra risky when clubing and drinking these beverages. I also am not prone to risky behaviour other than the rare binge drinking.

    June 8, 2010 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Duh!

    Gee what do you know... more things that are bad for you!! What a bogus study. Too much of anything harmful to your body is going to do damage. I for one love the combo but only in moderation. Risky behavior... Give me a break! Driving your car or even going to a party or club is "risky" behavior. With all the sickos in the world today, no one is ever safe. Always be aware of your surroundings and always in moderation.

    June 8, 2010 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Esteban

    Goose and Bull!!!!!!!!

    June 8, 2010 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Andrew "Firehawk" Godfrey

    This article reminded me that I had a 5 hr energy drink in my computer bag. Thanks! that just saved my afternoon.

    Also, I drank 2 – 5hr energies at a party last weekend and had a blast. Caffeine is what makes the world go round and alcohol makes the world a cooler place. So if my logic is correct the two combined are a match made in heaven. Drink on!

    June 8, 2010 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Peter Live!

    Anybody remember John Belushi?


    Red bull and vodka is the modern, legal, "speedball," and we all know that caffeine + liquor simply equals a wide-awake drunk.

    June 8, 2010 at 13:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Mime

    So how is this riskier than just getting drunk and then trying to sober up by drinking black coffee?

    June 8, 2010 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Patricia

    I agree with everyone who says that vodka plus Red Bull is just legal crack.

    We might as well give up on the War on Drugs right now.

    It's pointless to spend billions of dollars on fighting the cocaine cartels when you can just add vodka to Red Bull and get the same effect and the same damage to society from the perpetual overdoers.

    June 8, 2010 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Tigerpaw

    Nothing new – someone once thought it was 'fun' to mix barbituates with stimulants. The fact remains, risk increases, not decreases.

    It's always interesting to hear from those who justify questionable activity, whether or not it has been definitively determined to be risky. It usually begins with the phrase '...I like..', as if the ends, the effect, justifies the means, the unknown mixture, regardless of the actual risks, usually unknown.

    Well, some people like pit bulls, some like shooting AK's at wildlife, some like driving SUV's like sports cars, but, none of those are conducive to low risk, great decisions or desirable behavior.

    June 8, 2010 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. ACall

    The operative word here is MAY. This is not a definitive study and, therefore, any conclusions are not empirical.

    June 8, 2010 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. KassOswego

    Two of the worst hangovers I have ever had were the result of just 2 or 3 vodka-redbulls... No thanks, no more, that cured me.

    June 8, 2010 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Rebecca Anderson

    This indicates a link to Anxiety and Manic Depressive behavior.

    June 8, 2010 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Lester Pauly

    I used to drink energy drinks to help recover from the previous night. I then discovered that the energy drinks + alcohol were less expensive than plain energy drinks (go figure). These became my first drinks of the day...I am now in 12 step recovery.

    June 8, 2010 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Poppy

    Who wants to live low risk their whole life? The entire USA is a country of risk/pain/consequence averse cowards. Im surprised the Amish dont take over the country. They probably would if it werent for the language barrier.

    June 8, 2010 at 15:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Are you kidding?

    RE: Poppy –

    "So there really isn't any harm in this behavior." -

    You're an ignorant piece of trash, please die.

    June 8, 2010 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kat

      and you are a pompus arrogent waste of space. you cant live your life scared of everything. and if the worst thing that my kid can get her hands on is a jager bomb then have at it, when you are of age. id rather have her drinking, which is LEGAL! than snorting coke.

      October 8, 2010 at 12:04 | Report abuse |
  24. Laura

    Ok, enough with people being all judgmental and comparing redbull and vodka to a freaking SPEEDBALL of heroin and cocaine. Um, not even close people. How many of you out there take your doctor-prescribed anti-anxiety pills with your morning coffee? Same thing.

    And to the person who said "pit bulls... [not] conducive to low risk, great decisions or desirable behavior" I have a pitbull. They are VERY loving and loyal dogs. Even a poodle who is raised wrong can cause great injury to a person. I think it's irresponsible to use owning a pitbull to try and make a point about reckless behavior. You are just spreading the hate. ANY dog raised in a sick environment can turn out dangerous.

    Sometimes I will have an energy beer, or do some various 'bomb' containing redbull and something 80-proof. Obviously when you're hyper and drunk, you might do stupid things. When you're drunk and tired, you might also do stupid things. I wish doctors and researchers would find a cure for cancer and AIDS and stop 'researching' all of these common sense things! Ridiculous.

    June 8, 2010 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. jeremy

    I like to start the night off with a energydrink and vodka mix. one or two to get me going and then I switch to beer. I have been doing this for years and have not noticed any problems with health or risk taking.

    June 8, 2010 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Paul

    Taste Great, but yeah uppers + downers is a bad idea

    June 8, 2010 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. e

    To Poppy, I think I went to college with you and was perhaps involved in the debauchery...but don't make nearly what you make, and not everyone is as lucky as you, or dodges as many life bullets as you have. word.

    June 8, 2010 at 15:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. pingdanny

    I am sorry to read the post about the brother who passed away, possibly related to the mixture of energy drinks and alcohol. That being said, there is an old saying...."everything in moderation"

    PS – Red Bull and grape flavored Three Olives vodka is maaawney!!!

    June 8, 2010 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Dan

    Patricia....Red Bull and vodka the same effect as cocaine? you probably have had neither because you clearly have no idea what you are talking about

    June 8, 2010 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Jen

    Lester, redbull and vodka didn't make you an alcoholic, I guess you've missed the step about taking responsibilitiy for your own actions.

    I'm a professional, a mom and a wife who every once in a while(about half a dozen times a year) is called on by friends to go out and celebrate a special occassion. Unless I'm at a party I don't ever drink (doesn't entice me) . Maybe as a product of my generation, I've been drinking this combo for almost a decade. This study has no control for the initial propensity for risk that the individuals natrually possess. It certainly doesn't make me more inclined to take any risks. What it does do for me is allow me to keep up with my non-parent friends who can stay up dancing until 5am. Otherwise, I'd pass out at 11pm (toddlers really make you tired, no need to make a study for that). I don't over-do it. Those who do would overdo it and take risks no matter what they were drinking.

    June 8, 2010 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Eric

    @johnna: that's absurd. If there is any truth to your post, then your brother most likely died because he had a congenital heart defect that may have been exacerbated by the caffeine and/or sugar in the energy drink.

    June 8, 2010 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Jessica

    Glad to know that I only consumed a small qty of jagerbombs in my life – and never more than 1 in a single night. I no longer drink any sort of energy drink, they are just bad news all around.

    June 8, 2010 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Petrushka

    Vodka and Red Bull is bad, but an Irish Coffee is okay?

    June 8, 2010 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Rug

    You need the alcohol mixers in order to drink the red bull – that stuff is just nasty – battery acid tasting. "An acquired taste." Sorry, no thanks.

    Moderation is key. Binge drinking is just plain stupid. When you have college students who think they will live forever, try to drink a keg themselves, or a liter of Jack Daniels at one sitting or ... your self-prescribed alcohol mix here ... then you will have problems.

    Yes, first time binge drinkers can die. Yes, some alcoholic drinkers can drink all they way all the time and nothing "serious" happens to them, yet others imitating them can die. George Burns drank and smoke cigars til he died. Thousands of others imitating his kind of lifestyle died much sooner. We may never know what kept him from having problems.

    I don't drink, but if I did, I'd have an XS Energy Drink and some good vodka. 14 flavors, little caffiene (6 oz coffee amt) but 5000% Vitamin B12. Yes, it could make a more awake drunk. But you could also drink the XS Energy without the booze and not have a sugar crash later. Because it doesn't have any sugar or carbs in it. Only 8 calories a can. And no acquired taste for battery acid required. www . jve . biz pwd: nutrition

    June 8, 2010 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Freaked Out

    Most of these posts scare me to death for today's generation. I hope there aren't many out there like you.

    June 8, 2010 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Whatever

    My preference is Tequila Bombs or Watermelon Crawls....a shot of tequila surrounded by the energy drink or 1/2 shot tequila and 1/2 shot watermelon pucker surrounded by energy drink. I usually drink about 12 of these on a "party" night. Feel real good all night and never feel sick the next day if I stop at 12. Anything after 12 can take a turn for the worse!

    June 8, 2010 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Bobby

    This is news? 30 years ago, it was caffiene tablets from the back of High Times and power drinking. 20 years ago, it was speed and power drinking. 10 years ago, energy drinks came on the scene and power drinkers have made the transition official. Now we have a study that advises if you give caffiene or other herbal stimulants to a power-drinker, then you get a wide-awake drunk. I wonder once again how much tax money was spent to tell me what I already knew. Does a Wide-Awake drunk engage in more risky behavior? DUH....
    Is there a likelihood of Alcohol poisoning and even death in these situations? again, DUH.... The more things change, the more they remain the same.

    June 8, 2010 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Jessica

    What a ridiculous study. It's sad that people even consider this news. There is more caffeine in headache medicine than in a Red Bull. I agree that some of the larger energy drinks, like Monster and Rockstar have quite a bit of caffeine....but mixing it with alcohol isn't the problem. It's the alcohol! People have been mixing liquor with coca cola and coffee forever and this is no different.

    June 8, 2010 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. DarronFreed

    Caffeine and alcohol? Who would have *ever* thought of mixing those two?

    Anyone ever heard of "Rum & Coke" before?

    June 8, 2010 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Jill

    And to the people who are equating mixing alcohol and energy drinks to cocaine, wow, you could not be more wrong. It is not even close to the same thing. Not even a little bit.

    June 8, 2010 at 19:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Better

    Hopefully they people get anxiety and depression and kill themselves before they cost all of money in the free health care they will require and get! Let's all be idiots and then make everyone else pay the price.

    BRILLIANT!!!! Kids that are 25 and younger in this country are absolutely useless anyway. Hopefully they wipe themselves out and we jump right to next generation. Afterall, it is the same people that have worshiped Britany Spears, Paris Hilton, The Hills, and energy drinks.

    I think we will be ok if they all end up in mental hospitals or dead.

    June 8, 2010 at 21:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kat

      you should probably watch your mouth since MY generation will be taking care of YOURS. and we arent a waste. i have a bunch of friends who, like myself, carry a 3.5 gpa or above, are going to college, and dont "binge drink." So screw you, "better." my generation will be the one saving your butt.

      October 8, 2010 at 12:10 | Report abuse |
  42. seazlaurel

    Risky behavior? I would think that's the least of your concerns when your mixing uppers and downers. I feel like we might see the effects of those nasty drinks in studies done years from now on my peers that party hard. Eating a healthy diet, exercise and proper breathing also gives you energy...all day long!

    June 8, 2010 at 22:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. SpenceOC

    Huh....I would think the mix would leave you with one heck of a hang over. The kind that feels like a spike in your brain.

    June 8, 2010 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Oy

    @ Poppy: diaf pls. k, thnx

    @ the rest of you: Chill out. You all are like watching people run around in circles pulling their hair out in a mad panic. omg omg this is hooooorible. We must lemming march and listen to these wise souls who tell us their correlational study is the gospel truth!

    Alcohol has been a source of risky behavior since the dawn of, well, liquor. I don't think adding a Red Bull or a Monster is going to make that any less true.

    June 9, 2010 at 00:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. C

    I really get annoyed when people leave comments just to say, "This isn't news!" People need to be reminded once in a while if something isn't a good idea. A lot of people mix energy drinks with alcohol. As for myself, usually consume my energy drink an hour or so before beginning a night out to shake off a mood, a feeling of sloth. So maybe my timing is OK? I haven't noticed anything too unusual when I do this. It is wise to remember "everything in moderation", as someone above said. It is common sense, but how many of of really practice that?

    June 9, 2010 at 06:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Tony

    "Woolsey says the danger isn't specifically in the caffeine; it's in the combination of drinks with the other stimulants potentially being more dangerous because people haven't built up tolerances to them. Woolsey says many of these so called energy drinks contain unregulated herbal stimulants."

    Did all of you totally miss this part? You all keep going on about the caffeine. Read a story in its entirety, dont lock on one thing and run with it like a 5 year old.

    June 9, 2010 at 06:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RVT1K

    More junk "science" used to create sensational headlines.

    College kids do crazy stuff, they always have and always will. Unfortunately some of us will not live through it.

    June 9, 2010 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Mary

    There seems to be a lot of people in denial here.

    As somebody who has had a red bull/vodka combination – there is a lot of truth to this study. It truly makes you feel sober when you are digustingly NOT.

    Kudos to Ok State and Mizzou for trying to educate people –too bad that it's fallen on deaf ears.

    June 9, 2010 at 16:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. larue1973

    I disagree, read
    https://michelehigh.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/awake-energy-shot/ Friendly, Paulene

    January 28, 2017 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply

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