Mixing alcohol, caffeine has similar effect as taking cocaine: Study
A study from Purdue University looking into how alcohol and caffeine affect mice shows a similar response in adolescent brains as taking cocaine.
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Mixed alcoholic drinks that contain a large amount of caffeine have long been warned against by health officials around the world, but a new U.S. study suggests the drinks could have even deadlier consequences for adolescents.
A research team at Purdue University decided to look into the possible long-term effects of the drinks on the brains of young mice and discovered a similar reaction to taking cocaine.
Mice fed the high levels of caffeine found in energy drinks — as much as 10 times the amount in pop — along with alcohol, showed the physical and neurochemical signs to those given cocaine.
Richard van Rijn, an assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology at the university, along with graduate student Meridith Robins, published the results of the study in the journal POLOS ONE.
"It seems the two substances together push them over a limit that causes changes in their behavior and changes the neurochemistry in their brains," van Rijn said in a release.
After repeated exposure to the substances, mice continued to become more active and the researches detected increased levels of a particular protein, FosB, that also shows up in the brains of addicts.
But the similarities of the drugs aren't the only worry the study potentially uncovers.
The study suggests indulging in the caffeine-alcoholic drinks could cause drinkers to be more tolerant of cocaine, meaning the taker would have to increase the amount of the drug to feel the desired effect.
"Their brains have been changed in such a way that they are more likely to abuse natural or pleasurable substances as adults," van Rijn said.
Caffeinated alcoholic drinks continue to be popular in Canada's bars — think vodka and Red Bull — despite heavy regulation on their pre-mixed counterparts.
Four Loko, a popular party drink, was accused of targeting underage users and was blamed for a rash of deaths and hospitalizations of U.S. college students in 2010.
In response, the company removed the stimulants from its formula, which included caffeine. The move was followed by other less popular drink brands that followed the same path as Four Loko.