Energy drinks mixed with alcohol are as bad for teenagers as cocaine – and the effects last years, claims new research.
The study shows that mixing energy drinks with alcohol such as vodka affects their brain in a similar way to the Class A drug or in more simpler words the way cocaine does.
And researchers found the changes it triggers last into adulthood, altering their ability to deal with rewarding substances such as drink and drugs.
Alarmingly, it may even mean kids who go on to use cocaine in later life will need to take even more of the drug to get high increasing their level of addiction.
Energy drinks, like Red Bull and Monster, contain as much as ten times the caffeine as soft drinks and are often marketed to teenagers though a recent report stated Red Bull can in fact ease the symptoms of psychosis in young people.
However little is known about the health effects of the drinks, especially when they are consumed with alcohol.
Richard van Rijn, an assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology, looked at the effects of mixing highly caffeinated energy drinks with alcohol in adolescent mice.
Dr van Rijn says :
It seems the two substances (high energy drinks and alcohol) together push them over a limit that causes changes in their behaviour and changes the neurochemistry in their brains.
“We’re clearly seeing effects of the combined drinks that we would not see if drinking one or the other.” It is illegal to carry out such a study in humans, but changes seen in mouse brains with drugs of abuse have been shown to correlate to be similar.
Energy drinks may contain as much as 10 times the caffeine as fizzy drinks and are often marketed to youngsters.
With repeated exposure to the caffeinated alcohol the young mice became increasingly more active, much like those given cocaine.
Prof Van Rijn and graduate student Meridith Robin also detected increased levels of the protein FosB, which is a marker of long term changes in brain chemistry which is elevated in those abusing hard drugs such as cocaine or heroin.
Prof Van Rijn said: “That is one reason why it is so difficult for drug users to quit because of these lasting changes in the brain.”