Mixing alcohol and energy drinks causes alarming changes in the brain

Support us and go ad-free

Vodka Red Bull, Jägerbombs, and numerous strange brews in colourful bottles are standard fare for many people on a night out. But now it appears that mixing alcohol and caffeine-containing energy drinks may cause changes in the adolescent brain similar to taking cocaine, according to research published in the US.

The study

Adolescent mice were given this mixture, and scientists found that they became less sensitive to the pleasurable effects of cocaine. At first glance, this may sound positive. But it means that the mouse has to use more cocaine in order to get the same feeling as a control mouse. Study author Richard van Rijn said:

Their brains have been changed in such a way that they are more likely to abuse natural or pleasurable substances as adults.

Researchers detected increased levels of a specific protein, indicating long-term changes in the brain. Elevated levels of this protein also occur in those abusing drugs such as cocaine and morphine. Van Rijn commented:

That’s one reason why it’s so difficult for drug users to quit because of these lasting changes in the brain.

Relevance to humans 

These alcohol studies can’t use human adolescents for legal and ethical reasons. This might lead some to question whether the results from mice transfer accurately to humans.

But one important reason for using mice as models for addiction research is because we share the same reward pathway. Both mice and humans find cocaine pleasurable because it releases the ‘reward chemical’ known as dopamine. Studies on cocaine’s effect on mice help to explain human drug-seeking behaviour.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

A warning on combining drugs

This research shows that drugs in combination can be much more dangerous than drugs used by themselves.

When cocaine is combined with alcohol, it creates a third chemical called cocaethylene, which has been associated with seizures, liver damage, and a massive increase in risk of immediate death.

Combining alcohol and cannabis significantly increases levels of THC in the brain. And using even small amounts of ketamine when drunk can result in nausea, vertigo and vomiting.

Understanding the ways in which different drugs change the brain is crucial if we are to minimise the risks involved.

Get Involved!

– Check out Erowid for information on drugs and their combinations

– Call the Addiction Helpline for non-judgemental and caring support

 

[From the Science Editor: The Canary understands that there are strong opinions around the use of animals in scientific research. We’ve written about the issue previously. Our policy is simply to report on research such as in this article. As ever, we value your feedback on this sensitive topic.]

Featured image via RyAwesome

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed