I always preferred a cold beer to other drinks. This was true even back in my college partying days. But for many college students nowadays, an increasing trend is mixing alcohol with energy drinks. Popular combinations include vodka and Redbull, vodka and Rockstar, and Jagerbombs (dropping a shot of Jagermeister into half a pint of Rebull).
Several mistaken beliefs have given rise to the trend of mixing alcohol and energy drinks, some of which includes being able to drink more, stay up later to continue drinking, staying alert to drive home.
Unfortunately, the mixing of alcohol and energy drinks actually increases the risk of over intoxication and drunk driving.
A recent study conducted by the Center for Research on Aging, Health and Well-Being at the Australian National University in Canberra found that mixing alcohol with energy drinks increases the urge to drink more alcohol.
Participants were given either a mixture of vodka and Redbull or a mixture of vodka with soda water. Pineapple juice was added to both cocktails so that the participants would not know whether their drink contained an energy drink. The participants were asked to complete an “Alcohol Urge Questionnaire” 20 minutes before and after drinking their respective mixtures to indicate how strong their desire was to continue drinking.
The participants who drank the mixture of alcohol and energy drink reported a greater urge to continue drinking alcohol than those participants who drank the cocktail without the energy drink.
Energy drinks contain stimulants like caffeine, taurine, and ginseng. Alcohol, on the other hand, is a depressant. While drinkers might think that the effect from stimulants might counterbalance the depressant effects of the alcohol, the combination of stimulants and depressants is actually sending the body mixed signals.
This is supported by a 2010 study which found that college students who mix energy drinks with alcohol are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors including driving drunk or accepting a ride from someone who was drunk. According to Dr. Mary Claire O’Brien of Wake Forest University, who conducted the study, “Students whose motor skills, visual reaction times, and judgment are impaired by alcohol may not perceive that they are intoxicated as readily when they’re also ingesting a stimulant. Only the symptoms of drunkenness are reduced – but not the drunkenness. They can’t tell if they’re drunk; they can’t tell if someone else is drunk.”
Therefore, if people are less likely to tell if they are drunk, they are more likely to think they are sober enough to drive or someone whom they accept a ride from is sober enough to drive. This is particularly troubling when coupled with the findings that energy drinks increase the urge to drink more alcohol.
If you enjoy mixing alcohol with energy drinks, regardless of why, be aware of a few things: you are more likely to over drink, you are probably drunker than you think you are, and you are more likely to mistakenly believe that you’re ok to drive home.