Combining alcohol with energy drinks has become a common practice among college students. Although much research has focused on expectancies and/or negative consequences of such use, little has examined possible consequences. Because positive consequences may be more predominant than negative consequences when examining the immediate positive reinforcement of drinking behaviors, the role such reinforcement plays in the formation of alcohol abuse and dependence if unknown. Therefore the purpose of this study was to (1) To explore perceived positive reinforcements (PPRs) experienced by drinkers when consuming alcohol-only and combining alcohol with energy drinks and (2) Investigate relationship between PPRs and quantity of drinks.
Methods: A convenience sample of 371, 18-24 year old college students completed an online survey containing demographic questions, quantity/frequency index, and the Positive drinking consequences questionnaire for alcoholonly and combined use.
Results: Combined Users (CUs) reported significantly more PPR(s) than alcohol-only users (AOUs), but reported more PPRs when consuming alcohol-only. PPR(s) did not significantly increase with greater quantities of alcohol in AOUs, but did increase among CUs when consuming alcohol-only and combined drinks.
Conclusions: CU derived significantly more PPR(s) than AOUs, suggesting they hold expectancies and experience outcomes different from those of AOUs. Thus CUs may represent a special population at higher risk for alcohol abuse and dependence. Incorporating PPR(s) into current alcohol treatment and prevention practices represents an unexplored avenue with great potential to transform the college drinking culture.