The Dangerous Result When Teens Mix Alcohol & Energy Drinks

Teens who mix alcohol with energy drinks are four times more likely to have alcohol use disorder.

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Consuming energy drinks can make middle schoolers more distracted and hyperactive. Research also suggests adolescents shouldn't drink these beverages before playing sports, because it poses a risk to their cardiac health. In case that's not enough to cause kids to proceed with caution, the situation becomes even more dangerous when teens mix energy drinks with alcohol.

A new study from Dartmouth University's Norris Cotton Cancer Center found that teens (ages 15-17) who mixed alcohol with energy drinks were four times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder, compared to their peers who drank alcohol but didn't combine it with energy drinks. By definition, alcohol use disorder is when drinking becomes problematic and more severe.

In the study, first author Jennifer A. Emond says,

These findings are concerning. They highlight that mixed use of alcohol and energy drinks may signal the development of abusive drinking behaviors among adolescents.

Expanding on the repercussions of this behavior, Emond explains,

Abusive alcohol use among adolescents is a dangerous behavior that can lead to injury, chronic alcohol use and abuse, and even death. Identifying those most at risk for alcohol use is critical. Given that this is a sensitive issue, it's possible that clinicians, parents, and educators might open dialogues about alcohol use with adolescents by starting the discussion on the topic of energy drinks.

Discussing the side effects of energy drinks is a great starting point. You can even use the "Deadly Drinks? The Truth About Energy Drinks" story from the February 2013 issue of Choices as a conversation starter. Then you can segue into the topic of binge drinking with "The Danger of Just One Drink" article from our April issue.

Another reason to talk to your teens? Research shows that repeated conversations about alcohol can have a positive impact. Plus, other research suggests that focusing on the benefits of staying sober is more effective when talking to teens about drinking.

In case you need another resource, share this flow chart! It features exit strategies to avoid peer pressure at a party.