Alcohol and Energy Drinks: A Risky Combination

Prompted by the increasing popularity of combining alcohol with energy drinks, Cecile Marczinski, a psychologist at Northern Kentucky University, conducted a study to compare the levels of stimulation and behavioral inhibition between the consumption of straight alcohol and the consumption of alcohol mixed with energy drinks, such as vodka with Red Bull.  Her findings suggest that mixing energy drinks with alcohol inhibits the body’s ability to gauge levels of consumption.  Where an individual who drinks too much alcohol will begin to feel sedated, and consequently stop drinking, an individual who consumes energy drinks with alcohol will experience higher levels of stimulation and a distorted sense of control, despite being intoxicated.

According to Marczinski, this combination of impaired inhibition and enhanced stimulation has the potential to be very dangerous, by misleading individuals to feel that they can continue to drink or are capable of certain activities under the influence, such as driving.  Study participants who consumed the combined energy-alcohol drinks showed stimulation levels that were twice as high as the control groups.  This spike in stimulation causes a risky disconnect between what one’s perceived level of intoxication is and the reality of his or her state.

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