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Study Links Alcohol/Energy Drink Mixes with Casual, Risky Sex

Update Date: Jul 25, 2012 12:15 PM EDT

University at Buffalo researchers have found a link between the consumption of caffeinated energy drinks mixed with alcohol and casual, risky sex among college-age adults.

Almost 650 participants from a large public university participated in the study. More than 60 percent were younger than 21. The study's findings will be published in the Journal of Caffeine Research.

Researchers concluded that college students who consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AmEDs) were more likely to report having a casual partner and/or being intoxicated during their most recent sexual encounter and researchers say AmEDs may play a role in the "hook-up culture" that exists on many college campuses.

"Mixing energy drinks with alcohol can lead to unintentional overdrinking, because the caffeine makes it harder to assess your own level of intoxication" study author Kathleen E. Miller said. "AmEDs have stronger priming effects than alcohol alone. In other words, they increase the craving for another drink, so that you end up drinking more overall."

Casual or intoxicated sex can increase the risk of pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual assault and depression.

Previous research has linked energy drink consumption with other dangerous behaviors such as drunken driving, binge drinking and fighting.

However, the study found that consumption of AmEDs was not a significant predictor of unprotected sex. Drinkers were no less likely than nondrinkers to have used a condom during their most recent sexual encounter.

Participants in the study were more likely to use a condom during sex with a casual partner than during sex with a steady partner, despite the consumption of AmEDs.  This finding is consistent with previous research.

According to researchers, nearly one in three sexually active students reported using AmEDs during the month prior to the survey. At their most recent sexual encounter, 45 percent of the participants reported having a casual partner, nearly 25 percent reported being intoxicated and almost 44 percent reported that they did not use a condom.

Miller said drinking Red Bull/vodkas or Jagerbombs doesn't necessarily lead people to get drunk and become intimate with strangers, but increases the odds of doing so. She also said that these drinks are becoming increasingly popular with college-age adults and should be considered a possible risk factor for potentially health-compromising sexual behaviors.

Researchers hope that the study will spark educational campaigns or consumer safety legislation, such as warning labels that advise against mixing energy drinks with alcohol.

A copy of the study is available here:

http://www.buffalo.edu/news/pdf/Alcohol-with-Energy-Drink-UB-Study.pdf

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