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Energy drinks and alcohol: research supported by industry may be downplaying harms

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f5345 (Published 12 September 2013)
Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5345

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  1. Peter Miller, associate professor, School of Psychology, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, 3220, Australia
  1. Peter.Miller{at}deakin.edu.au

Mixing alcohol with so called energy drinks has become popular, but with what risk? Peter Miller worries that research does not consider real world levels of consumption and that researchers’ conflicts of interest need to be declared in full

Concern is growing about the harms that may arise from heavy drinkers mixing alcohol with so called energy drinks to enable them to drink for longer and achieve higher levels of intoxication. On Friday and Saturday evenings, about 40% of people on Australian city streets are heavily intoxicated (breath alcohol concentrations (BAC) greater than 0.087 mg alcohol/100 ml) and nearly a quarter of these drinkers will have consumed more than two energy drinks.1 Data are lacking on energy drink use by alcohol drinkers in other countries but in samples, 73% of US college students2 and 85% of Italian college students3 reported consuming energy drinks mixed with alcohol in the past month.

Epidemiological studies show that drinkers who consume energy drinks are more likely to record a higher breath alcohol concentration than those who do not.4 They are also more likely to report drinking more alcohol5; engaging in aggressive acts1; being injured1 6; symptoms of alcohol dependence7 …

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