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Alcohol mixed with energy drinks predicts barroom conflict is sexually related

As alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AmED) becomes an increasingly popular and common drink selection among young adults, more research is needed to understand how this combination affects behavior and alcohol related problems.  Previous studies have examined the links between AmED, and aggression, risk-taking, risky sexual practices, and sexual victimization.  The current study examines the relationship between AmED and the causes interpersonal conflict in bars, specifically whether the conflict was triggered by sexually related causes after AmED consumption.

Survey data were collected in New York state from 175 young adults (55.4% female) aged 18 to 30 years who identified using AmED and experiencing at least one incident of verbal or physical aggression recently in a bar.  Approximately half of participants were enrolled undergraduate or graduate students.  Participants gave qualitative descriptions of the most recent barroom conflict in which they had been involved, including what provoked the conflict and how the conflict ended.  These were coded by researchers as sexual, non-sexual, or ambiguous.  Demographic information and alcohol use histories were collected, including AmED and other alcohol quantities consumed before and during the described conflict.  Control measures for impulsivity, sensation-seeking, aggression, and alcohol related consequences were also included.

Of 150 narratives with adequate detail to be coded as sexual or non-sexual, 32 conflicts (18.3%) were provoked by a sexually related cause.  These causes followed two themes: 20 conflicts were precipitated by jealousy and 12 by an unwanted sexual advance made by or toward the participant.  When analyzed alongside AmED consumption, results showed the proportion of AmED drinks consumed before and during the incident predicted the likelihood that the conflict had a sexually related cause, even when control variables were included in the analysis.

Take Away: Alcohol mixed with energy drinks predicts the likelihood that conflicts in the barroom will be sexually related, either through unwanted sexual advances or sexual competition.

Ball, N.J., Miller, K.E., Quigly, B.M. & Eliseo-Arras, R.K. (2018). Alcohol mixed with energy drinks and sexually related causes of conflict in the barroom. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. [Published online ahead of print, May 21, 2018] doi.org/10.1177/0886260518774298.


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