Energy drinks are popular beverages that typically include high levels of caffeine and other ingredients such as taurine, or caffeine-containing herbs, such as guarana. While energy drinks are often consumed alone, they are also frequently used as mixers for alcoholic beverages. This review summarizes what is known about the scope of use of alcohol mixed with energy drinks, the risks associated with such mixtures, and the objective laboratory data examining how the effects of their consumption differ from consuming alcohol alone. The weight of the evidence reveals that consuming alcohol mixed with energy drinks is riskier than consuming alcohol alone and constitutes a public health concern. Consumption of these mixed beverages is frequent, especially in young and underage drinkers, and compared with alcohol alone, their use is associated with elevated rates of binge drinking, impaired driving, risky sexual behavior, and risk of alcohol dependence. Laboratory research (human and animal) has demonstrated that consuming alcohol mixed with energy drinks leads to altered subjective states including decreased perceived intoxication, enhanced stimulation, and increased desire to drink/increased drinking compared to consuming alcohol alone. Possible underlying mechanisms explaining these observations are highlighted in this review.
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