Alcohol and energy drinks have become a popular combination among drinkers, especially those in college. The common belief is that energy drinks help mask the alcohol, making the drinker feel more alert and not as intoxicated. However, a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, shows that energy drinks actually act as a placebo, causing the person to feel more intoxicated than they really are.
This is an important discovery because it sheds light on what is really happening at bars, parties and clubs all over the world. People are consuming drinks that, psychologically, make them feel more drunk than they really are, and this has an impact on their behavior, decision-making, and psychological state.
The study, which focused 154 young men, relied on questionnaires filled out before, during and after consuming alcohol beverages. The participants were either given a glass that said: Red Bull and vodka, vodka cocktail or fruit juice cocktail. And while the participants thought these were different drinks, the researchers had actually made all the drinks the same. However, the men who thought they were drinking vodka and Red Bull reported feeling more intoxicated, daring and sexually self-confident. This was especially true for those men that had stated that energy drinks make someone more intoxicated.
In the end, the men who consumed the drinks that were labeled with Red Bull and Vodka reported an increased intoxication level of 51% over those that consumed beverages in glasses marked with other ingredients.
“Beliefs that people have about a product can be just as important as the ingredients of the product itself. Regulations and codes of conduct should consider the psychological – and not just physiological – effects of products,” explained the authors of the study.
One of the many dangerous new trends involving substance abuse among adolescents and young adults includes mixing alcohol and energy drinks that contain caffeine. This may not seem like that big of a deal at first, but new information reveals the effects are more severe than some might think. Researchers at Purdue University conducted a study that showed mixing alcohol and caffeinated beverages can alter the makeup of the developing brain.
Causing damage to a growing neural center has long lasting effects, the researchers also concluded that these adolescents and teenagers are more likely to develop problems with how they deal with rewarding substances as adults. This means that drug use or alcohol use may be a bit more difficult for them to stop or abstain from because their brains have been altered to demand more.
The latest study looked at the effects of drinks on adolescent mice. When the mice were given caffeine and alcohol combinations, researchers were able to observe that the brains of the mice reacted in the same way as when they were given cocaine. This link provided more insight into the dangers of these drink combinations. As the trials went on, the researchers were able to see an increase in certain brain proteins that indicate long-term changes to the neurochemistry of the brain.
“It seems like two substances together push them over a limit that causes changes in their behavior and changes the neurochemistry in their brains. We’re clearly seeing effects of the combined drinks that we would not see if drinking one or the other,” explained Richard van Rijn, an assistant professor at Purdue University.
Alcohol and caffeine combinations are a trend that have observable physical complications. And teenagers are prone to following trends. And while consuming these types of beverages does not ensure that addiction will take place, it is becoming more clear that consumption is likely to lead toward brain alterations that could have more severe effects down the road.