EUCAM - European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing

Alcohol and Energy drinks: a risky mix

1 August 2008

Alcohol and Energy drinks: a risky mix STAP calls on the Dutch supermarkets to ban alcoholic energy drinks
Utrecht, August 1st 2008

Alcohol-related harm increases when alcohol is consumed in combination with an energy drink. This is acknowledged by international scientists and recently also by the drinks industry in the United States. Despite the risky mix, Dutch alcohol producers also started putting ready-to-drink alcoholic energy drinks on the market. Consequently, STAP, the Dutch Foundation for Alcohol Prevention, calls on the supermarkets today to no longer sell these premixes. Wim van Dalen, director of STAP: "Let's learn from the lessons in the US, we don't need even more alcohol-related problems".

Rise of alcoholic energy drinks in the Dutch supermarket
In several countries and recently also in the Netherlands, a trend is visible that alcohol producers bring alcoholic energy drinks on the market. In the Dutch supermarkets several of these products have been signalized, such as Veltins V+ Energy ('energy beermix with guarana') from Germany, Eristoff Red Flash ('a mix of flavoured vodka, taurine and caffeine') by Bacardi and Royalty Red ('vodka mix with energy') by Hooghoudt (see appendix for pictures of these products).

Alcoholic energy drinks: more alcohol and more injury
Research from the US revealed that adolescents who regularly drink alcohol mixed with energy drinks more often binge drink (more than 5 drinks in a short period of time) and are drunk twice as often1. Also other alcohol-related consequences are more prevalent. There's a doubled risk of being taken advantage of sexually, riding with an intoxicated driver, being physically hurt or injured, and the need for medical treatment.

Energy drinks mask sedative effect of alcohol
Alcohol is a sedative, while ingredients of energy drinks such as caffeïne, guarana and taurine have a stimulant effect. The effects of combined use are partly comparable with those of the combination of alcohol and cocaine. In both cases, the effects of alcohol are masked which may lead to excessive alcohol consumption1.
Adolescents who drink alcohol in combination with an energy drink have the feeling (subjectively) they are less drunk than when they drink alcohol alone2. However, objective measures show that adding an energy drink to alcohol does not improve the performance in any way. Objectively, the motor coordination and visual reactions are the same as when only alcohol is being consumed. Also blood alcohol levels remain the same. Thus, subjectively, the energy drink masks the effect of the alcohol. This explains why young people drink more alcohol when combined with energy drinks.
By adding an energy drink to alcohol, people will overestimate themselves and their physical performances, while the sedative effect of the alcohol is being underestimated, resulting in the above mentioned risks.

Alcohol producer Anheuser-Busch withdraws energy drinks from US market
At the end of June 2008, one of the largest alcohol producers worldwide, Anheuser-Busch, has agreed to withdraw her alcoholic energy drinks ("Tilt" en "Bud Extra") from the market. This occurred in response to pressure from the non-profit organisation Centre for Science in the Public Interest and 11 state Attorneys General. Anheuser-Busch is calling on its competitors in the industry to do the same3.

Call from STAP to Dutch supermarkets
There is convincing scientific research that has shown that the combination of alcohol with energy drinks increases alcohol consumption and other hazardous behaviour. These alcoholic energy premixes especially attract the younger target audience and are easily accessible through the supermarket.
Therefore, STAP calls on the Dutch supermarkets to ban the alcoholic energy drinks from their stores. This way the supermarket can contribute to the prevention of unnecessary risky behaviour from Dutch adolescents.

1. O'Brien, M.C., McCoy, T.P., Rhodes, S.D., Wagoner, A., & Wolfson, M. (2008). Caffeinated cocktails: energy drink consumption, high-risk drinking and alcohol-related consequences among college students. Academic Emergency Medicine, 15, 453-460.
2. Ferreira, S. E., de Mello, M. T., Pompéia, S., & Souza-Formigoni, M. L. (2006). Effects of energy drink ingestion on alcohol intoxication. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 30, 598-605.
3. CSPI Newsroom. Anheuser-Busch to stop caffeinating Alcoholic Beverages. Retrived from at June 26th 2008.

For more information:
STAP (National Foundation for Alcohol Prevention in the Netherlands)
Mr. ir. W.E. van Dalen, director
Ms. dr. E. van den Wildenberg, coördinator Monitoring Alcohol Marketing
T 030-6565041

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