Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Do Energy Drinks Mixed with Alcohol Increase Risk-taking?

New research has concluded that people who consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AmED) do not engage in more risky behaviour than people who consume alcohol alone. Rather, people who are more prone to risk-taking behaviour are more likely to consume AmED.

Indeed, studies have shown that people are less likely to take risks when they are consuming AmED compared with alcohol alone. Despite this, Dr Amy Peacock of the University of Tasmania’s School of Psychology has previously found that young Australians who mix alcohol and energy drinks experience significant negative physical and psychological effects.

Peacock’s latest study found that about one-tenth of people consuming AmED had a high incidence of risk-taking behaviour. “So there is a high likelihood of AmED-related risk-taking behaviour, but only in a minority of consumers,” Peacock says.

Peacock found that the person who is more likely to engage in a range of risk behaviours after AmED is more likely to be male, more impulsive in general, and report more frequent alcohol use, greater alcohol and ED intake, and greater risk-taking after alcohol.

“The same person is likely to take just as many risks after drinking just alcohol as compared to when they drank energy drinks mixed with alcohol,” Peacock said.

Thus the results suggest that risk-taking behaviours might be more about the individual than the type of alcoholic beverage they are consuming.

“This suggests that these individuals have a high-profile of risk across a spectrum of outcomes, suggesting that we should consider the characteristics of the individual as well as the effects of mixing,” Peacock says.

“The key message from these findings is that the stereotype of AmED consumers engaging in dangerous behaviours post-consumption does not apply to all; it is the behaviour of the minority in this group which leads to this perception.”