Cocaine and caffeinated energy drinks mixed with alcohol have the same type of effect on young people’s brains, according to the results of a new study published by researchers at Perdue University. The two-part study, which was published in the journals Alcohol and PLOS ONE, analyzed the effects of caffeinated alcohol in the brains of adolescent mice. The results showed that they reacted in a similar way to mice who had been given a dose of cocaine.
Exposure to Energy Drinks with Alcohol Caused Brain Changes
The first experiment observed adolescent mice while they were under the influence of caffeinated energy drinks mixed with alcohol. The results were that these mice were not more likely to drink more alcohol as adults.
In the second round of the experiment, mice who were given the caffeine-and-alcohol combination:
• Behaved in the same manner as those who had been given cocaine; and
• Had increased levels of FosB, a protein scientists that according to scientists is “responsible for long-term changes in the neurochemistry of the brain.” This is the same type of change in the brain that researchers have noted causes drug users to struggle with addiction issues.
The study’s lead author, Richard Van Rijn, noted that neither group of mice experienced the enjoyable aspect of cocaine that humans typically do after taking the drug. They preferred the caffeinated alcoholic drinks, which Van Rijn said could possibly lead them to “use more cocaine to achieve the same effect.”
“It seems the two substances together push them over a limit that causes changes in their behavior and changes the neurochemistry in their brains,” van Rijn went on to say. “We’re clearly seeing effects of the combined drinks that we would not see if drinking one or the other.”
Researchers hope that further research in this area will help them to determine the effects of more substances on adolescent brains.
Energy Drinks Containing Alcohol a Public Health Concern
Energy drinks containing alcohol were the subject of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warnings in 2010. At that time, the FDA called them a “public health concern.” Since that point, a number of alcoholic energy drink companies have changed their ingredients and have changed their labels to include more detailed alcohol facts on cans.