Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Energy drinks & alcohol: more buzz, less thrilling

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2008 at 11:06 AM

The next time you're tempted to have a Red Bull and vodka — or to get in the car with someone who's been drinking that lovely beverage combination — think twice. I still can't fathom why some people want to ruin good vodka by adding the taste of bad bubblegum, but that's not why you should reconsider your drink order. The New York Times reports today that health researchers say young adults and teens who consume energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster, Amp or Full Throttle are more likely to engage in "risky behavior." Usually, "risky behavior" is a media euphemism for having unprotected sex, but in this case, condom- or diaphragm-challenged intercourse is only the beginning.  The consumption of energy drinks, according to The Journal of American College Health, is a potential indicator of "toxic jock" behavior, including the aforementioned bareback rides, along with more serious substance abuse and violence.

Researchers say the energy drinks themselves don't cause the problems, but if a friend is downing a bucketload of Amps every day, that's probably a good indication that he or she is likely to take health or safety risks — kind of like the guy who told me he drank Red Bull and vodka because "it keeps me from getting really drunk."

Dr. Mary Claire O'Brien at Wake Forest Medical Center in Winston-Salem says the guy I spoke to was full of it. Dr. O'Brien studied energy-drink/alcohol use among students at 10 North Carolina colleges, and she says those students simple "feel" less drunk but their motor skills and reaction times are still at "good and drunk" levels. As Dr. O'Brien put it, "You're every bit as drunk, you're just an awake drunk." On top of that, she found that someone who downs an energy drink/alcohol combination is more likely to be the victim or perpetrator of aggressive sexual behavior.

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