Credits: CHRIS ROUSSAKIS/QMI AGENCY
Canadians -- especially youth and young adults -- are increasingly drinking this potent mix, putting them at greater risk for physical and social harm. including being a perpetrator or victim of sexual assault, according to the report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and the Centre for Addictions Research at the University of Victoria (BC).
Health authorities in many countries have raised concerns over the sugar and caffeine content in energy drinks.
Health Canada recently reclassified energy drinks from a natural health product to a food, so the agency can have greater oversight. It is considering measures like limiting caffeine levels or requiring more detailed labelling.
When combined with alcohol, highly caffeinated drinks mask the feeling of inebriation, leading to "longer and more active drinking sessions," the report said.
The heavier the drinking, the lower the inhibitions, and the report found that compared to those who drink alcohol alone, those who drink caffeinated alcoholic beverages are more likely to by physically injured and require medical attention, more likely to drive drunk or ride with someone who is and more likely to commit or be a victim of sexual assault.
Young people drink caffeinated alcoholic beverages at levels four times higher than the general public, according data cited in the report.
In studies conducted at Canadian universities, among the reasons students gave for mixing the two were to stay awake when drinking, to party longer, to get a buzz quicker and to drink more without feeling drunk.
The report calls on the government to raise prices on pre-mixed caffeinated alcoholic beverages and ban sales of them, as well as regular caffeinated energy drinks, in "high-risk" settings like bars and clubs.
"The published research suggests that controls on economic availability (i.e. taxes and prices) and physical availability (e.g., days and hours of sale) are most effective for reducing consumption and, by extension, alcohol-related harms and costs," the report said.