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Energy drink constituents (caffeine and taurine) selectively potentiate ethanol-induced locomotion in mice

Journal article
Authors Lisa Ulenius
Louise Adermark
Bo Söderpalm
Mia Ericson
Published in Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Volume 187
ISSN 0091-3057
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Language en
Keywords Alcohol, Behavior, Dopamine, Locomotor activity, Mouse, Reward
Subject categories Neurosciences


© 2019 The Authors Mixing alcohol with energy drinks has emerged as a popular trend over the last decade. However, epidemiological studies have found this consumption to be associated with increased hazards, such as binge drinking, increased alcohol-related harm and risk of developing alcohol use disorder. The mechanisms underlying these effects are not clear, but much attention has been attributed to caffeine. However, taurine, another common ingredient in energy drinks, has also been associated with the dopamine elevating properties of ethanol, and may in this respect contribute to the increased liability associated with the mixture of alcohol and energy drinks. In the present study we measured locomotor activity, a phenomenon previously linked to the dopamine activating and reinforcing properties of the drug, following acute systemic administration with caffeine (1, 5, 15, 30 mg/kg), taurine (30, 60, 300, 600 mg/kg) and ethanol (1.75, 2.5, 3.25 g/kg), alone or in combination. We found that ethanol and caffeine, but not taurine, increased locomotion compared to vehicle. In addition, when combined with ethanol, caffeine, but not taurine, increased the locomotor stimulatory effect of ethanol. Furthermore, the combination of caffeine and taurine were able to further enhance the ethanol-induced locomotor response. Eleven days of intermittent caffeine exposure produced a sensitized response to the caffeine-induced locomotion, but did not alter the additive effect produced by the combination of caffeine and taurine on ethanol-induced locomotion. Based on the present study we suggest that the combination of caffeine and taurine, at a specific dose range, enhances the locomotor stimulatory properties of ethanol, a phenomenon previously linked to the reinforcing properties of the drug.

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