Daredevils Don’t Need Vodka with Red Bull

Alcohol with energy drinks did not make people take bigger risks than energy drinks alone

(RxWiki News) Energy drinks are full of caffeine and sugar, which can pack quite a kick. But what happens if people drink energy drinks with alcohol? Do people get double buzzed and reckless?

A recent study tested whether combining alcohol with Red Bull energy drink would make people take bigger risks.

Results showed that people took slightly bigger risks when they had energy drinks alone compared to an energy drink in combination with alcohol.

"Enjoy energy drinks in moderation."

Amy Peacock, PhD candidate in the School of Psychology at the University of Tasmania in Australia, led an experiment to see if drinking energy drinks in combination with alcohol made people more impulsive.

In this small study, 28 men and women between 18 and 25 years of age were recruited to participate in four three-hour sessions to test the impact of the combination of energy drinks and alcohol.

Participants had regularly consumed caffeine – somewhere between 5 to 28 servings per week but no more than one energy drink per day in the past month.

None of the participants had any history of substance abuse or alcoholism, nor had they smoked cigarettes in the past two weeks.

The researchers took each participant’s body weight into account when determining how much alcohol to serve each person during the experiment. That is to say, a 250-pound male may require more alcohol per volume than a 115-pound female to reach the same level of intoxication.

On average, the women received 85 percent less alcohol than the men to get to the Breath Alcohol Content (BrAC) of 0.05 percent, which is the legal limit for driving in Australia. 

Participants were given several tests throughout the drinking session to assess the effects of the drinks. A computer game and questionnaires were used to measure risky behavior, drunkenness, mental tiredness and ability to function normally.

Participants were randomly assigned to receive one of four drink combinations for each session: vodka plus energy drink, vodka plus fake energy drink, fake vodka plus energy drink and fake vodka plus fake energy drink.  

Each participant received each of the four combinations over the course of all four sessions. When people were in the alcohol groups, they were given enough vodka to reach a BrAC of 0.05 percent, depending upon the person, which was between one to three vodka drinks in one hour.

When people were in the energy drink group, they were given around 8.5 ounces of Red Bull in one hour, which is the size of Red Bull’s smallest can.

The researchers did their best to make sure the drinks all tasted the same, so the participants didn’t know the difference between the drinks. They also attempted to make sugar levels equal in all four drink combinations.

The results of the study showed that people did not take greater risks when they drank the alcohol and energy drink combination. People said they felt more “stimulated” after drinking the alcohol and energy drink combination.

People took slightly greater risks when they drank the energy drink by itself compared to the other drink combinations.

The authors concluded that combined energy drink and alcoholic beverages did not increase risk-taking behavior in this study. However, the authors did recommend that further studies test increased doses and different ratios of energy drink to alcohol for risk-taking behavior.

This study was published in March in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.                                                           

Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Council Tas Inc. provided funding for this project. Red Bull GmbH provided samples of their product for the experiment. No conflicts of interest were found.

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Review Date: 
March 25, 2013