In recent years, studies have indicated that consumers of alcohol mixed with energy drink (AmED) are more likely to drink heavily and experience more negative consequences than consumers who avoid these beverages. Although researchers have identified a number of plausible hypotheses that explain how alcohol-energy drink co-ingestion could cause greater alcohol consumption, there has been no postulation about reverse causal relations. This paper identifies several plausible hypotheses for the observed associations between AmED consumption and greater alcohol consumption, and provides initial evidence for one such hypothesis suggesting that heavy drinking may be a determinant of AmED use.
Data collected from 511 bar patrons were used to examine the plausibility of one of the proposed hypotheses, i.e., AmED is an artifact of heavy drinking. Associations between the consumption of an assortment of alcoholic beverage types and total alcohol consumption were examined at the event-level, to assess whether AmED is uniquely related with greater alcohol consumption.
Increased alcohol consumption was associated with greater odds of consuming most alcoholic beverage types; this association was not unique to AmED.
Results support the overlooked hypothesis that AmED use is an artifact of heavy drinking. Thus, AmED consumption may be a consequence or marker of heavier drinking. Much of the existing research on alcoholic beverage types is limited in its ability to implicate any specific type of drink, including AmED, as a cause of increased alcohol consumption and related harm. More rigorous study designs are needed to examine causal relationships.