Alcohol with energy drinks may worsen violence, risky behaviour

London: Do you consume alcohol with energy drinks just to counteract its sedative nature? If so, it can exacerbate the negative effects of binge drinking such as increasing violence and risky behaviour, finds a study.

Mixing energy drinks with alcohol tricks users into feeling more awake and less drunk than they really are.

However, the study on zebra fish showed that taurine — a key ingredient of many energy drinks — together with alcohol seemed to increase the fear-reducing properties of alcohol and also affected social communication.

“This study shows that the two together may be exacerbating some of the negative effects of binge drinking; that is reduction of fear and problems in social communication while intoxicated, which collectively increase the risk of fighting, violence and participation in risky behaviours,” said Matt Parker, from Britian’s University of Portsmouth.

In the study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, the team tested how taurine and alcohol affected the behaviour of 192 zebrafish.

The fish were divided into shoals (with four fish per shoal) and were exposed to either just water, taurine and alcohol separately or taurine and alcohol for one hour.

Besides analysing their shoaling behaviours, the fish were also tested for their fear-like responses to a predator by dividing the tank into four areas, with the farthest area used to mimic a predator fish.

The fish that were exposed to both alcohol and taurine had fewer interactions with other fish in the shoal compared to those exposed to water alone or just alcohol. These fish also showed more “risky” behaviour, spending more time in the predator zone than other groups.

“Alcohol reduces our inhibitions, and in low doses can cause relaxation and euphoria. However, in higher doses this low inhibition can cause problems with fighting or risky behaviour,” Parker said.