Background: Energy drinks (ED) are a widely used group of beverages known for their stimulant effects on central nervous system (CNS). The main components of ED are caffeine, taurine, carbohydrates, glucuronolactone, inositol, niacin, pantenol, and beta-complex vitamins. The studies evaluating the effects of ED describe improvements in attention and/or reaction times and indices of alertness. It has been also shown that combination of caffeine and glucose, fundamental constituents of ED, can ameliorate deficits in cognitive performance and subjective fatigue during extended periods of cognitive demand. Moreover, the associated ingestion of alcohol and ED has recently been observed to be becoming more and more widespread.
Methods: With the aim to know the habits and uses of students, we administered a questionnaire containing questions regarding ED drinking alone or in association with alcoholic beverages. Five hundred students of the School of Medicine of the University of Messina were interviewed, and 450 filled the questionnaire.
Results: A total of 56.9% of students declared using ED. A great part of users (48.4%) associate frequently ED and alcohol. In particular, 35.8% of ED + alcohol users have used ED + alcohol more than 3 times in the last month. Distinguishing the users into 2 groups (users of ED + alcohol and users of both ED and ED + alcohol), we observed in the second group a major use of cocktail containing a mix of ED and alcoholic beverages. This difference between the 2 groups is less represented about the ingestion of ED + alcohol in the night.
Conclusions: Our data indicate that association of ED + alcohol is very popular among students. This behavior can be dangerous. In fact, the combination of ED + alcoholic drinks can reduce adversive symptoms of alcohol intoxication including the depressant effects. As consequence, users of ED + alcoholic beverages might not feel the signs of alcohol intoxication, thus increasing the probability of accidents and/or favoring the possibility of development of alcohol dependence.