Alcohol and energy drinks are a favorite combination for young revelers throughout the world. A study from Australia has found that the unique flavor may not be the only reason for vodka Red Bulls to be flying off the shelves. It seems that the combination of the two beverages has the interesting effect of causing individuals to have an increased urge to drink more.

'All I Want To Do Now Is Have A Drink'

A total of 75 volunteers, 46 women and 29 men, aged 18 to 30 years old, were asked to drink an alcohol-only or alcohol and energy drink combination. Each participant was given equal amounts of vodka and either had it mixed with 200 milliliters (ml) of fruit drink and soda water, or 200ml of fruit drink and energy drink. Participants were then asked to take an Alcohol Urge Questionnaire, which required participants to record their rating of agreement with statements such as “All I want to do now is have a drink” and “It would be difficult to turn down a drink at this moment.”  Overall, it was found that those who drank the alcohol energy drink combination had a stronger desire to keep drinking than those who solely drank alcohol, according to the press release.

Why Does Mixing Alcohol And Energy Drinks Make You Drink More?

Dr. Rebecca McKetin, lead author on the study, explained to Medical Daily the reason for this increased appetite for alcohol may be partly due to energy drinks' effects on alcohol intoxication. The participants did not report feeling any more or less intoxicated, but many did report feeling the stimulant effect of alcohol more when mixed with an energy drink. “Caffeine, being a stimulant, tends to bring out the stimulant effects of alcohol intoxication. It may be this that causes energy drinks to increase the desire to keep drinking alcohol,” McKetin added.

Dr. Peter Miller, associate professor of psychology at Deakin University, and Nic Droste, a current Ph.D. student, told Medical Daily that recent studies suggest the caffeine in energy drinks may stimulate the chemical adenosine,, “which is linked to the pleasure people derive from drinking alcohol.” This would also explain the effect of increased alcohol use.  The researchers also added that the “palpability” and sugar content may also add to a person’s desire to drink more.

How Dangerous Is This Combination?

According to Miller and Droste, “like alcohol, energy drinks are safe for consumption when they are used in moderation.” As suggested by the findings of this study, energy drinks may increase the risk of binge-drinking in young adults, but McKetin believes that “our research alone does not provide sufficient evidence to regulate the sale of energy drinks.”

In actuality, energy drinks can only go so far with increasing an individual’s alcohol consumption. Every individual has free will and the ability to control his or her drinking in real-life situations. However, McKetin suggests that this increased urge to drink may sway some people to drink more when they might have otherwise stopped.

A Call For Accurate Ads

If energy drinks do in fact increase the effects of alcohol and urge one to drink more, then the researchers say this should be accurately advertised. The researchers explain how energy drink warnings, such as how they should not be consumed by those under the age of 18 and pregnant women, “should be prominent and mandatory.”

“We need to demonstrate that combining energy drinks with alcohol leads to a significant increase in people’s drinking and alcohol-related problems,” McKetin concluded.

Source: McKetin R, Coen A. The Effect of Energy Drinks on the Urge to Drink Alcohol in Young Adults. Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research. 2014.