A new study finds that teens who mix alcohol with energy drinks are four times more likely to have an alcohol disorder than teens who have tried alcohol but never mixed it with an energy drink.
Dartmouth researchers published the study in the Journal of Pediatrics.
Several studies have discovered a link between consuming alcohol mixed with energy drinks and the increased rates of negative outcomes while drinking, including binge drinking.
However, most studies of these studies have been conducted among undergraduate college students, not high school students.
The Dartmouth team, led by James D. Sargent, M.D., with first author Jennifer A. Emond, M.Sc., Ph.D., expanded the topic parameter by investigating the practice among teens aged 15-17 years old.
“These findings are concerning,” said Emond. “They highlight that mixed use of alcohol and energy drinks may signal the development of abusive drinking behaviors among adolescents.”
Sargent’s team looked at a sample of 3,342 adolescents and young adults aged 15-23 years old recruited across the U.S. They found that 9.7 percent of adolescents aged 15-17 years old had consumed an energy drink mixed with alcohol.
Analyses showed that group to have greatly increased odds of not just binge drinking, but also clinically defined criteria for alcohol use disorder.
“Abusive alcohol use among adolescents is a dangerous behavior that can lead to injury, chronic alcohol use and abuse, and even death,” said Emond. “Identifying those most at risk for alcohol use is critical.
“Given that this is a sensitive issue, it’s possible that clinicians, parents, and educators might open dialogues about alcohol use with adolescents by starting the discussion on the topic of energy drinks.”
Future research will review if the marketing of energy drinks influences an adolescent’s perception of use of energy drinks, including the acceptability of mixed use with alcohol.