Sexual Perils of Energy Drinks & Alcohol

Energy drinks and alcohol cocktails increase risk of drunk sex

(RxWiki News) Is a Red Bull and vodka or a Jager Bomb one of your standard bar drinks for a night on the town? Then you may be more likely to wake up beside a one night stand the next morning.

A recent study found that consumption of alcoholic drinks mixed with caffeinated energy drinks is linked to higher rates of casual and potentially risky sex among young adults.

"Consider avoiding energy drink-alcohol cocktails."

The study, led by Kathleen E. Miller, PhD, a senior research scientist at the University of Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions, looked at the intersection of energy drinks, alcohol and sex among college-age adults.

The study involved 648 sexually active college students from a large public university and specifically looked at whether the risks of casual sex, intoxicated sex or unprotected sex were changed among those who indulged in drinks mixed with alcohol and energy drinks.

Although the participants ranged from age 18 to 40, more than 60 percent of them were under age 21, and the vast majority were in their early 20s.

A survey revealed that 29 percent of these students had consumed an alcoholic drink mixed with an energy drink in the previous month, and 25 percent reported being intoxicated at their most recent sexual encounter.

Nearly half - 45 percent - of the students reported that their most recent sexual experience was with a casual partner, and 44 percent did not use a condom during that encounter.

After Dr. Miller took into account how frequently the students regularly drank alcohol (without caffeinated drinks mixed in) and other risk-taking behaviors of the students, she found that drinking alcohol plus energy drink cocktails was linked to a higher likelihood of having casual or drunk sex.

"Mixing energy drinks with alcohol can lead to unintentional overdrinking, because the caffeine makes it harder to assess your own level of intoxication," says Miller. "[Drinks mixed with alcohol and energy drinks] have stronger priming effects than alcohol alone. In other words, they increase the craving for another drink, so that you end up drinking more overall."

Having sex while drunk greatly increases the risk of a number of distressing situations, such as unplanned pregnancies, sexual assault, sexually transmitted infections and depression.

Yet one positive finding of Dr. Miller's research is that having these drinks does not appear linked to a higher rate of unprotected sex. The study participants used condoms during their casual sex encounters at a higher rate than they would have with a steady partner.

Because the study showed only association, it does not mean that having a Red Bull and vodka will cause a person to engage in casual or risky sex. It does mean that those who enjoy these types of drinks are more likely to have casual sex.

Among the high-risk behaviors that have already been associated with alcoholic cocktails containing energy drinks in past research are binge drinking, drunk driving and fighting.

The study was published June 5 in the Journal of Caffeine Research. The research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Dr. Miller declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 25, 2012