University of Western States (UWS) associate professor, Dr. Conrad Woolsey, is principle investigator on energy drink and alcohol consumption study

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Dr. Woolsey's study links the combination of alcohol and energy drinks to an increased incidence of drunk driving

New study links the combination of alcohol and energy drinks to an increased incidence of drunk driving

“This paper will be another important scientific study showcasing the potential dangers of combined use of those drinks with alcohol.” - Dr. Will Evans, provost at UWS and a contributor on the study

Conrad Woolsey, PhD, an associate professor in the college of graduate and professional studies at University of Western States (UWS), recently published a study suggesting that people who combine alcohol and energy drinks drive drunk more frequently than people who consume alcohol only.

The survey questioned 355 college students regarding their perceptions of drinking and driving as well as energy drink consumption patterns. Two hundred and eighty-one participants said they drank alcohol within the last month, with 107 from that group acknowledging they used alcohol and energy drinks together.

“Dr. Woolsey is an internationally recognized expert on the risks associated with energy drinks,” Dr. Will Evans, provost at UWS and a contributor on the study said. “This paper will be another important scientific study showcasing the potential dangers of combined use of those drinks with alcohol.”

Dr. Woolsey’s findings include:

  • Among combined-users (i.e., those who consumed alcohol with energy drinks), 57 percent indicated they had driven while knowing they were too drunk to drive compared to 44 percent of those who consumed alcohol only.
  • 56 percent of combined-users said they had chosen to ride as a passenger in a car with a driver who they knew was too drunk to drive safely, compared with 35 percent of alcohol-only group.
  • Combined-users reported episodes of getting drunk and heavy binge-drinking more frequently than those who used alcohol only.

Dr. Woolsey recently published another study indicating that an increase in energy drink use was a significant predictor of increased illicit prescription stimulant pill use, with the odds for using prescription stimulants increasing by 6 percent with each day additional day of energy drink use in the past 30 days.

These finding are important to medical practitioners because of the harmful interactions that can occur when mood-enhancing energy drink ingredients, such as ginseng and yohimbe, are mixed with prescription stimulants and alcohol.

“The mixture of herbal supplements with prescription stimulants is dangerous and can have many harmful psychological and neurological effects,” said Dr. Woolsey. “Our findings showed that all participants with and without a valid prescription misused prescription stimulants as they had mixed energy drinks with their prescriptions which is contraindicated due to potentially dangerous interactions.”

To learn more about Dr. Woolsey’s findings, read his manuscript “A Comparison of the Combined-Use of Alcohol & Energy Drinks to Alcohol-Only on High-Risk Drinking and Driving Behaviors,” published in the January 2015 edition of Informa.

Dr. Woolsey’s earlier manuscript, “Frequency of Energy Drink Use Predicts Illicit Prescription Stimulant Use,” published in Substance Abuse, the official journal of the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse (AMERSA), was selected as best manuscript for 2014. A follow-up study and manuscript was recently published by Substance Abuse. The article entitled “Increased Energy Drink Use as a Predictor of Illicit Prescription Stimulant Use,” takes a more comprehensive look at the topic of energy drink consumption and illicit prescription stimulant use.

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Megan Nugent

Megan Nugent
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