Drinking highly caffeinated alcoholic beverages is harmful to adolescents, revealed a new study. The study, conducted by Richard van Rijn, an assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Purdue University, found that drinking heavily caffeinated alcoholic beverages provokes changes in the brain that are equivalent to taking cocaine, and these effects will still be present in adulthood. Energy drinks have 10 times the amount of caffeine as soda, and are frequently aimed at adolescents. Since the beverages carry high volumes of caffeine and sucrose, introducing them to the body will lead to alterations in drug-associated behavior, as caffeine and sucrose trigger identical brain pathways that are involved with substance abuse.
The scientists sought to prove the correlation between caffeinated alcoholic beverages and its impact on the adolescent brain. This study was in partnership with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation. Since this alcohol analysis could not be examined in adolescent humans, the study used adolescent mice.
The scientists used three separate energy drink exposure models and male mice to track the influence of caffeine in energy drinks in adolescence on adult alcohol consumption. Two versions showed energy drink intake, and the other displayed forced intake of sucrose mixtures with different caffeine amounts. After the mice were subject to these compounds, alcohol consumption was overseen by a two-bottle choice between water and alcohol.
The medical findings were published in the journals Alcohol and PLOS ONE. The results confirmed that when caffeine was blended with alcohol and presented to adolescent mice, they displayed physical and enzymatic signs that were comparable to mice who had been given cocaine. As the mice became more dependent on caffeinated alcohol, they became more lively. The researchers also detected rising quantities of a protein that is an indicator of a change in neurochemistry, particularly more present in those who do cocaine or morphine.
As adults these same mice further had a preference for cocaine. Mice given caffeinated alcohol during adolescence were more immune to the satisfying result of cocaine, which can translate to a mouse utilizing more cocaine to obtain a more euphoric feeling than a control mouse. To challenge this hypothesis, the scientists sought to see if mice consuming caffeinated alcohol would also consume saccharine, a manufactured sweetener and an equally enjoyable substance to the caffeinated alcohol.
The researchers’ belief was that if the mice were numbed toward reward, they would go for more saccharine. Mice who were more exposed to caffeine and alcohol drank remarkably more saccharine than mice who were used to drinking water. This verifies that caffeinated mice had chemical shifts in the brain that contributed them to abusing drugs. Thus, adolescent mice that were presented with high energy drinks are not more prone to drinking alcohol as adults.
The study’s inquiry upheld the idea that caffeinated alcoholic is damaging to adolescent brains. However, in none of the three layouts did researchers detect that energy drink consumption does not connect with a turn in adult alcohol inclination. Adolescent intake of caffeinated sucrose blend does not strengthen future alcohol intake, as demonstrated in the mice.