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Energy drinks mixed with alcohol trigger cocaine-like effects in teenagers


(NaturalNews) A new study has shown that energy drinks mixed with alcohol trigger effects very similar to those of cocaine in the brains of teenagers, and the consequences of consuming the two together may have long-term negative effects lasting into adulthood.

A team of researchers at Purdue University, led by assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology, Richard van Rijn, found that energy drink and alcohol cocktails (such as Red Bull mixed with vodka, for example) caused effects in the brains of mice that were not observed when the substances were consumed separately.

When consumed together, however, the two substances caused adolescent mice brains to react in the same way they typically would when given cocaine.

From Purdue University News:

"Van Rijn and graduate student Meridith Robins published results in the journal Alcohol that showed adolescent mice given high-caffeine energy drinks were not more likely than a control group to drink more alcohol as adults.

"But when those high levels of caffeine were mixed with alcohol and given to adolescent mice, they showed physical and neurochemical signs similar to mice given cocaine."

"It seems the two substances together push them over a limit that causes changes in their behavior and changes the neurochemistry in their brains," said van Rijn. "We're clearly seeing effects of the combined drinks that we would not see if drinking one or the other."

Because no such research can be performed on human adolescents, mice were used in the study. Changes in the brains of mice tend to correlate with those of humans in terms of reacting to various drugs.

Teens who mix energy drinks and alcohol may have a tendency to use greater quantities of cocaine

One of the more disturbing findings of the Purdue study was the fact that mice exposed to caffeinated alcohol cocktails during adolescence showed a different level of preference for cocaine. They were less sensitive to cocaine's pleasurable effects, which led the researchers to theorize that teenagers who were used to the effects of caffeinated cocktails might be likely to use more cocaine if exposed to it.

These sort of long-term effects are not yet clearly understood, but it is generally acknowledged that the kind of long-term chemical changes in the brain caused by the combination of energy drinks and alcohol are the same types of changes that make addiction treatment so difficult for some people.

"That's one reason why it's so difficult for drug users to quit because of these lasting changes in the brain," said van Rijn.

The short-term effects of mixing energy drinks with alcohol are potentially dangerous enough. Some of these drinks contain 10 times more caffeine than the average soda, and the mixing of high levels of caffeine and alcohol can be deadly.

Why this type of research is needed

Until now, little research has been done on the potentially negative health effects of these energy beverages – with or without alcohol – but the trend towards mixing them with booze has become quite popular in recent years.

More research of this type is needed, not just to ascertain the effects of specific substances (or mixtures thereof) on the brain, but also to understand the mechanisms of addiction.

Van Rijn plans to continue his research in this direction, with future studies that will further explore alcohol abuse disorders and others that will examine the effects of "legal, available psychostimulatory substances that may be harmful to adolescent brains."

His next study will involve ethylphenidate, a legal drug available online that is similar to Ritalin, a prescription drug commonly used to treat ADHD.

The complex mechanisms in the human brain that regulate addictive behavior are just beginning to be understood, and this type of research should prove to be invaluable in helping us eventually grasp the bigger picture.




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