The vodka Red Bull, or VRB, has become a favorite cocktail among some young revelers. (One fan even made a video homage, to the tune of Rupert HolmesÕ 1979 hit ÒEscape:The Pi?a ColadaÊSong.Ó) But scientists say that tipplers of caffeine-laden energy drinks mixed with alcohol may have a tougher time knowing when to stop than those who imbibe booze alone.
Researchers at Northern Kentucky University tested studentsÕ reaction times while drinking Red Bull with vodka. The students who drank the buzzy cocktail felt more alert and peppy than students who were just quaffing vodka, but were just as bad at controlling their actions as an old-fashioned drunk.
ÒWhen you consume alcohol plus an energy drink, youÕre still as impairedÓ as someone drinking just alcohol, says Cecile Marczinski, an assistant professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University. She is lead author ofÊthe study, published online inAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
In the study, the Red Bull and alcohol drinkers said they felt twice as stimulated and alert as those drinking alcohol alone.
ÒThat sets up a risky scenario for the drinker,Ó Marczinski told Shots. ÒYouÕre not accurately assessing how drunk you are.Ó
Alcohol acts like a stimulant when people first start drinking it; that happy buzz makes alcohol the worldÕs most popular recreational drug. But as people keep drinking, they start getting tired and sleepy. ÒThatÕs the cue to stop drinking,Ó MarczinskiÊsays. But when amped up on caffeine, Òthe cue to tell you to stop is not there.Ó
While thereÕs been lots of anecdotal evidence that the combo is more dangerous than alcohol alone, there hasnÕt been a lot of science nailing down the difference in behavior.
Last November, the manufacturers of Four LokoÊagreed to strip the caffeine out of the potent alcohol drink after the Food and Drug Administration made noises about regulating sales of alcoholic energy drinks. Four LokoÊis a sweet and fruit-flavored caffeinated beverage with a hefty 12 percent alcohol content; it had been linked to hospitalizations and deaths among young drinkers. At the time, the co-founders of PhusionÊProjects, makers of Four Loko, said their product was no different than a rum and Coke or an Irish coffee.
But drinking alcohol and an energy drink together is different, the researchers say, because the caffeine content in most energy drinks is higher than that in soft drinks, and the high schoolers and college students who favor and are marketed the combo are more likely to drink a lot. An 8.3 ounce Red Bull has 76 milligrams of caffeine, compared to 35 milligrams in a 12-ounce can of Coke.
ÒIt changes how you experience the drink,Ó Marczinski says.
The bottom line: Drinkers shouldnÕt trust their judgment, and drinkers who include energy drinks in the mix should be even more skeptical.
by NANCY SHUTE
- Energy drink use may lead to alcohol dependence (addictionts.com)
Incoming search terms: