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Mixing energy drinks and booze? Beware, study says

Students may want to think twice the next time they mix a Jaeger Bomb. Students who mix energy drinks with alcohol are putting themselves in twice as much physical danger and doubling the likelihood they might be involved in a sexual assault as those who drink only alcohol, according to a recent study at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

Mary Claire O'Brien, associate professor of emergency medicine and public health sciences at Wake Forest, led the team of researchers in studying the risks of combining alcohol and energy drinks. According to a Nov. 1 Newswise article, O'Brien and her team discovered that students who drink alcohol with energy drinks rather than just alcohol were twice as likely to be injured, twice as likely to require medical attention and twice as likely either to take advantage of someone sexually or to be taken advantage of sexually.

The study was conducted by polling 4,271 college students from 10 schools via the Internet, according to the Newswise article. Of the students polled, 2,886 had consumed alcohol within the past 30 days, and of those, 24 percent had also consumed alcohol with energy drinks, O'Brien told The Herald.

"I think people (drink alcohol with energy drinks) because it allows them to drink longer without feeling the effects of the alcohol," O'Brien said. She said that when people drink alcohol in conjunction with energy drinks, all of the normal changes associated with drinking alcohol - such as an increased blood alcohol content level - occur, but people are able to drink more alcohol without realizing the extent of their intoxication.

Adam Robbins '09, a campus representative for Rockstar energy drinks, agreed with O'Brien's description. "The body's defense against alcohol is for it to get tired so you can't drink any more," said Robbins, a Herald comic artist. "If your body's being stimulated (while drinking alcohol) ... it's not healthy."

As a campus representative for Rockstar, Robbins said he is supplied by the company with energy drinks. Robbins, a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, often brings drinks to fraternity parties and other events. Though some partygoers will use the energy drinks to mix with their alcohol, others will drink the energy drinks as an alternative to alcohol, he said.

"It's an alternative to alcohol or smoking which is still socially acceptable or cool," he said.

O'Brien said she was prompted to perform the study while treating a comatose student who said he had been drinking alcohol and energy drinks. "I found out it's a huge trend. It's not just in the U.S. - it's all over the world," she said.

Robbins said he first heard about mixing alcohol and energy drinks together about four or five years ago. He attributes the growing popularity of mixing energy drinks with alcohol to the rising popularity of energy drinks themselves. "Five or six years ago you might be able to find an energy drink at a convenience store. Now it seems like you can find it at a bookstore," Robbins said.

Some students said they were skeptical of parts of the study. "If anything, you get the best of both worlds" when drinking Jaeger Bombs, a mix of Jaegermeister and an energy drink, such as Red Bull, said Jeff Wardyga '08. "You get the traditional alcohol buzz, but you also get the sports drink which also pumps a little more into you. But ... alcohol (by itself) can be dangerous."

Wardyga said he had not experienced any mishaps as a result of drinking Jaeger Bombs that he would not have experienced as a result of drinking alcohol alone.


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