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article imageMixing energy drinks and alcohol is like taking cocaine

By Tim Sandle     Nov 3, 2016 in Health
Mixing energy drinks with alcoholic drinks can be dangerous, according to a new study. Mixing large quantities mimics the effects in the brain experienced by cocaine users.
Although the caffeine added to most energy drinks acts as a stimulant and alcohol exerts a depressive function on the central nervous system, bringing the two together (such as adding an energy drink to vodka) doesn’t lead to a cancelling out of the effects. Instead, when considerable quantities are consumed, a different effect takes place in the brain – one that is similar to what takes place in the brains of those who use cocaine.
This finding is based on animal studies, conducted by researchers at Purdue University. The results of these studies show the effect, and the researchers argue the effects are more pronounced with the adolescent brain. Moreover, the research infers that, should the practice be repeated regularly, lasting damage takes place.
The reason for running animal studies is because research on people would be unethical. However, the findings are considered translatable to humans, according to Professor Richard van Rijn, who is an expert in medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology.
The animal studies showed how physical and neurochemical changes in the brain take place when energy drinks and alcohol are combined, and the more that is consumed then the greater the effect. Most notably there are elevated levels of the protein coded 'ΔFosB.' This protein spikes in the brains of users of cocaine (and to an extent morphine). As well as disrupting brain function it can also lead to addiction and dependence. Such addictive behaviors were noted in the mice given the drink combination.
Speaking with Laboratory Roots, Dr. Van Rijn explains: “It seems the two substances together push them over a limit that causes changes in their behavior 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.”
Further details about the research are explained in the following video:
The findings should inform about social policy. Energy drinks, which contain relatively high levels of caffeine compared with standard coffee or sodas, are often marketed to young people. In addition, many bars serve an energy drink mixed with a spirit.
The research findings are published in the journal PLOS One, in a paper titled “Unique Behavioral and Neurochemical Effects Induced by Repeated Adolescent Consumption of Caffeine-Mixed Alcohol in C57BL/6 Mice.”
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