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Source: Tim Rarick, 785-532-1499, trarick@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Kayela Richard, 785-532-2535, media@k-state.edu

Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010

ALCOHOLIC ENERGY DRINKS: GETTING A BUZZ TYPICAL RISKY BEHAVIOR OF YOUNG ADULTS, EXPERT SAYS

MANHATTAN -- The popularity of alcoholic energy drinks among college students isn't surprising, according to a Kansas State University expert.

Tim Rarick, instructor of family studies and human services at K-State, says while the drinks may be a new trend among college-age students, substance abuse isn't a new phenomenon for the age group.

"Alcoholic energy drinks are just the new drug of choice," Rarick said.

Caffeinated versions of alcoholic energy drinks have been banned nationwide by the federal government because of several cases -- some fatal -- of alcohol poisoning. The energy drinks come in a variety of flavors that mask their 12-percent alcohol content.

College students know the dangers of drinking alcoholic energy drinks, but still indulge in them to get drunk fast and cheaply without concern about future consequences, Rarick said.

"The newly found freedom of emerging adulthood causes many college students to engage in risky behaviors," he said. "Immediate pleasure derived from a behavior can outweigh the possible negative consequences. Just because college students have adult-like freedom doesn't mean that they're mature enough to handle it in a healthy way."

One alcoholic energy drink, around 24 ounces, can be the equivalent of six regular alcoholic drinks. Consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in a row is considered binge drinking, Rarick said.

"Most binge drinkers don't consider themselves as having a problem with alcohol, but they show multiple problematic behaviors, such as higher rates of unprotected sex, physical injury, driving while intoxicated and trouble with the police," he said.

When college students are constantly seeking instant gratification through risky behaviors, they might experience loss in other areas of life, Rarick said.

"You can have fun, but if that is the focus in every part of your life, you're going to sacrifice learning, maturing, forming healthy relationships and other important areas of growth," he said.

Rarick said many college students need to focus more on future-oriented thinking.

"Many students navigate through emerging adulthood successfully while maintaining a healthy level of fun," he said. "The goal isn't to force students into adulthood faster than they're able, but to help them understand that growing up is not the end of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I'm driven to help these wonderful students realize that they shouldn't have to sacrifice their future by overindulging in the present."