Bad Buzz

25 September, 2012

Have you heard the one about mixing vodka with a caffeine-fueled energy drink -- so you get the kick of a cocktail but stay sober enough to drive? 

Don't buy it. Using Red Bull and other energy drinks as cocktail mixers has been the cool thing for a while now. But researchers recently put the combo to the test and found nothing but frat-house folklore. The idea that high-caffeine energy drinks tame the effects of alcohol is a chemical illusion. The heady mixture just makes people think the alcohol has no effect. Scary.

It's not that energy drinks have no effect when mixed with alcohol. People actually may feel less tired and more energetic after a Red Bull and vodka than a regular cocktail. Apparently that's because, like many of its clones, Red Bull not only is packed with caffeine and an invigorating amino acid called taurine, but also with gluconolactone -- a substance thought to speed up metabolism. But that's the problem. You may feel wired, not tired, but alcohol's debilitating effects are still there. In test subjects, both motor skills and visual reaction time were as impaired by energy-enhanced cocktails as by unfortified alcoholic beverages. 

The whole thing can be compared to the myth that drinking a lot of coffee right after overindulging will sober you up. Nothing can undo the effect of alcohol except time. Don't be fooled by the manufactured energy of a Red Bull, especially if you're mixing it with hard liquor. And of course, don't drink and drive.

SOURCES: Effects of energy drink ingestion on alcohol intoxication. Ferreira, S. E., de Mello, M. T., Pompéia, S., Souza-Formigoni, M. L., Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research April 2006;309(4):598.

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