Teens Who Drink Energy Drinks With Alcohol May Have Increased Risk Of An Alcohol Disorder

First Posted: May 04, 2015 10:53 AM EDT

New findings published in the Journal of Pediatrics discuss just how dangerous mixing alcohol and energy drinks can be.

As previous studies have examined how energy drinks alone can increase heart rate and potentially exacerbate preexisting health conditions, researchers at Dartmouth College specifically focused on how they can affect teenagers who use the combination together.

For the study, researchers found that teens between the ages of 15 to 17 years old who had never mixed alcohol with energy drinks were up to four times more likely to meet criteria for alcohol use disorders than those who had tried alcohol but never mixed it with energy drinks.

"These findings are concerning," Jennifer Emond, first author of the study, said in a statement. "They highlight that mixed use of alcohol and energy drinks may signal the development of abusive drinking behaviors among adolescents."

For the study, they looked at a sample of more than 3,000 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15-23 who were recruited across the United States.

Findings revealed that 9.7 percent of participants between the ages of 15-17 years old had drunk an energy drink mixed with alcohol had an increased risk of binge drinking and even potentially an alcohol disorder.

"Abusive alcohol use among adolescents is a dangerous behavior that can lead to injury, chronic alcohol use and abuse, and even death," Emond added. "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."

In the future, the researchers are considering how marketing energy drinks may influence an adolescents perception of their use, including acceptability of mixed use with alcohol. 

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