New research suggests that individuals who consume Rockstars, Red Bulls and Monster energy drinks are more likely to drive drunk than the average person.
In an effort to better understand the tendencies of drunk drivers, researchers followed 1,000 college students over a period of six years. The students were given annual surveys that asked them numerous questions, including inquiries into their beverage consumption and how often they drove drunk. After accounting for certain factors like history of family alcohol use, risky behavior tendencies, mental health issues and coffee consumption, researchers uncovered:
- Nearly all students reported drinking alcohol within the year. 25 percent reported driving drunk, and 57 percent reported having at least one energy drink.
- Among energy drinkers, 56 percent said they drank them both alone and with alcohol. 15 percent said they only drank them when alcohol was involved, and 27 percent said they had their energy drink on the side when they drank alcohol.
- Researchers found a strong connection between the likelihood of admitting to driving drunk and having consumed non-alcohol energy drinks.
“[The] results shed light on the complexity of the relationship between [energy drink] consumption patterns and an important public health problem: drunk driving,” noted the authors of the study, led by public health researcher Amelia Arria of the University of Maryland.
Why The Correlation?
Now, it’s important to note that the study only uncovered a correlation and did not prove any causation, but the findings are interesting nonetheless. Researchers stopped short of saying exactly why energy drink consumption was higher in individuals who drove drunk more frequently, but they had some theories.
First, they suggested that drinking energy drinks prior or alongside alcohol may lead to a state of “wide awake drunk,” where individuals will want to keep their night going, paving the way for more alcohol and poor choices. Secondly, they say the people that consume energy drinks may be falling for the psychological effects of energy drink marketing campaigns which, as the authors suggest, is “characterized by an idealized notion of an exciting, active lifestyle with a proudly carefree and undaunted attitude of ‘living for the moment.’” These carefree and thrill-seeking marketing gimmicks may be leading individuals to make more destructive real-life choices. Finally, researchers suggest that college kids may be reaching for energy drinks in order to nurse their hangover, so while they are not directly involved in the decision to drink and drive, tracking energy drink consumption can still be a useful flag for targeted drunk driving prevention campaigns.
Researchers hope to conduct further studies to narrow in on relevant factors and hone in on a reason for correlation.