Alcohol with Caffeine drinks may bring changes similar to taking cocaine
Drinking highly beverages with caffeine mixed with alcohol may further trigger changes in the adolescent brain, which is similar to taking cocaine, according to a new study.
The effects would last into adulthood as an altered ability to deal with the rewarding substances, researchers said.
An assistant professor, Richard Van Rijn from Purdue University in the US, looked at the effects of highly caffeinated energy drinks and also highly caffeinated alcohol in adolescent mice.
These studies cannot be further performed in adolescent humans, but these changes seen in mouse brains with drugs of abuse have been shown to correlate to those in humans in many of the drug studies.
These energy drinks can further contain as much as 10 times the caffeine as soda and are often marketed to adolescents. However, little is known about the health effects of the drinks, especially when they are consumed with alcohol during adolescence.
Van Rijn and graduate student named Meridith Robins showed adolescent mice who were given high-caffeine energy drinks were not more likely than a control group to drink more alcohol as adults.
However, when those high levels of caffeine were later mixed with alcohol and given to adolescent mice, they showed some physical and neurochemical signs similar to mice given cocaine. “It seems the two substances together push them over a limit that causes changes in their behaviour and changes the neurochemistry in their brains,” Van Rijn said.
The researchers have also detected some increased levels of the protein delta FosB, which is a marker of long-term changes in the neurochemistry, elevated in those abusing drugs such as cocaine or morphine. “That’s one of the reasons why it is so difficult for drug users to further quit because of these lasting changes in the brain,” van Rijn said.
Those same mice, as adults, showed a very different preference or valuation of cocaine. Robins found that mice exposed to caffeinated alcohol during adolescence were less sensitive to the pleasurable effects of cocaine.
While this sounds positive, it could mean that such a mouse would use more cocaine to get the same feeling as a control mouse. “Mice that had been exposed to alcohol and caffeine were somewhat numb to the rewarding effects of cocaine as adults,” van Rijn said.