The study found 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.
The results seem to indicate that AmEDs may play a role in the “hook-up culture” that exists on many college campuses, said study author Kathleen E. Miller, senior research scientist at UB’s RIA.
The problem is that casual or intoxicated sex can increase the risk of unwanted outcomes, like unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual assault and depression, said Miller.
And previous research has linked energy drink consumption with other dangerous behaviours: drunken driving, binge drinking and fighting, for example.
“Mixing energy drinks with alcohol can lead to unintentional overdrinking, because the caffeine makes it harder to assess your own level of intoxication,” stated Miller.
“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,” she added.
The good news: Miller’s study found that consumption of AmEDs was not a significant predictor of unprotected sex. Drinkers were no less likely than non-drinkers to have used a condom during their most recent sexual encounter.
Regardless of their AmED use, participants in the study were more likely to use a condom during sex with a casual partner than during sex with a steady partner, consistent with previous research. A steady or committed partner is a less risky prospect than a casual partner whose sexual history is unknown, Miller noted, so using a condom may not feel as necessary.
According to Miller, drinking Red Bull/vodkas or Jagerbombs doesn’t necessarily lead people to get drunk and become intimate with strangers, but it does increase the odds of doing so. But she points out 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.
The findings will be published in the print edition of Journal of Caffeine Research.