Studying U.S. Alcohol Mixed with Energy Drinks Consumption

Dates: 2012-2013

Geographic Scope: Nationwide

Client(s): Boston Medical Center, Red Bull

Service: Applied Research & Evaluation

Technical Expertise: Substance Use


Mixing energy drinks with alcoholic beverage is increasingly popular among college students and young adults. Surveys estimate that in the U.S. 25-50% of college students consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AMEDs) at least some of the time. The results of some cross-sectional studies suggest that consumption of AMED increases alcohol consumption and risk-taking behaviors. Thus, the use of AMEDs has become an important public health issue and has resulted in regulatory action by the FDA and other state and local agencies.

Studies that show an association between AMED consumption and increased risk-taking have used between-group analyses, in which the behaviors of those who use AMEDs are compared to those who drink alcohol without energy drinks. This approach leaves open the possibility that those who use AMEDs are inherently more prone risk-taking behaviors, which confounds the AMED-risk-taking relationship.

The goal of this project was to conduct the U.S. arm of a multinational study of college students’ use of AMEDs. The Dutch arm of the study was recently completed and the Australian arm is being developed. The studies at the three sites used a within-subjects analysis to compare risk-taking behavior when the same students consume alcoholic beverages with and without energy drinks. This analytic approach controlled for trait differences that might confound the relationship between AMED use and risk-taking and therefore provided more definitive assessment of the risks of AMED use.

JSI will work collaboratively with Boston Medical Center to provide overall leadership and guidance for the project including scientific oversight, development of protocols and manuscripts, modifying existing assessment tools, leading investigator and project meetings, preparing and modifying IRB protocols, and presenting findings.