Although it goes down easier and feels smoother, combining energy drinks with alcohol will get you just as intoxicated.

Red Bull supposedly gives you wings, but when mixed with alcohol the energy drink also gives you blinders—especially to assessing just how drunk you really are.

It’s a popular myth among young people that balancing alcohol intake with Red Bull will lessen the debilitating effects of drinking—such as weakness, muscular tension and difficulty walking—and increase stamina, opening the door to a long night of partying. But, according to a study published in the April issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, while clubbers who consume the colorful concoction often avoid the downer effects of alcohol, their motor coordination still suffers.

“The ingestion of one dose of energy drink was not enough to significantly reduce most of the objectively measured effects of alcohol,” Maria Lucia O. Souza Formigoni, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of psychobiology at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, said via e-mail.

Formigoni, gave 26 males a weekly dose of one of three beverages: alcohol, Red Bull or a combination of both. The alcoholic drinks consisted of 100 to 160 ml of vodka, equivalent to about 2.5 to 4 “standard alcoholic drinks,” according to Formigoni. The subjects submitted to motor and mood tests throughout their three-week trials.

Formigoni found that when subjects drank the combination of Red Bull and vodka, they reported a reduction in perception of alcohol’s side effects, like headaches and sleepiness, compared to when they drank vodka alone.

“We observed a reduction in the subjective sensations of intoxication,” said Formigoni.

At the same time, however, the researchers noticed that performance in standard motor control tests among the Red Bull and vodka groups showed a decrease in fine motor skills and reaction time.

“People should be warned that in spite of the sensation of reduced effects, they are still affected by alcohol, and their motor coordination is impaired,” said Formigoni.

Since clubbers who consume Red Bull and vodka don’t necessarily feel the effects of their drinking, they may guzzle down more than they should, according to Formigoni. She also noted that a sweeter taste might allow people to drink the combination of alcohol and Red Bull faster than other drinks.

The current study is the first controlled scientific examination on the effects of combining alcohol with Red Bull. Next, Formigoni plans to conduct experiments on mice to test what happens with the chronic consumption of alcohol and energy drinks. Their preliminary findings show that more mice react to the stimulant effect of the energy drinks rather than the depressing effect from the liquor.

“If the same occurs to people, we could assume that a higher number of people, especially younger ones, would feel the stimulant effect of alcohol and, enjoying it, would increase their alcohol consumption,” said Formigoni.

Originally published March 27, 2006


Share this Stumbleupon Reddit Email + More


  • Ideas

    I Tried Almost Everything Else

    John Rinn, snowboarder, skateboarder, and “genomic origamist,” on why we should dumpster-dive in our genomes and the inspiration of a middle-distance runner.

  • Ideas

    Going, Going, Gone

    The second most common element in the universe is increasingly rare on Earth—except, for now, in America.

  • Ideas

    Earth-like Planets Aren’t Rare

    Renowned planetary scientist James Kasting on the odds of finding another Earth-like planet and the power of science fiction.

The Seed Salon

Video: conversations with leading scientists and thinkers on fundamental issues and ideas at the edge of science and culture.

Are We Beyond the Two Cultures?

Video: Seed revisits the questions C.P. Snow raised about science and the humanities 50 years by asking six great thinkers, Where are we now?

Saved by Science

Audio slideshow: Justine Cooper's large-format photographs of the collections behind the walls of the American Museum of Natural History.

The Universe in 2009

In 2009, we are celebrating curiosity and creativity with a dynamic look at the very best ideas that give us reason for optimism.

Revolutionary Minds
The Interpreters

In this installment of Revolutionary Minds, five people who use the new tools of science to educate, illuminate, and engage.

The Seed Design Series

Leading scientists, designers, and architects on ideas like the personal genome, brain visualization, generative architecture, and collective design.

The Seed State of Science

Seed examines the radical changes within science itself by assessing the evolving role of scientists and the shifting dimensions of scientific practice.

A Place for Science

On the trail of the haunts, homes, and posts of knowledge, from the laboratory to the field.


Witness the science. Stunning photographic portfolios from the pages of Seed magazine.

SEEDMAGAZINE.COM by Seed Media Group. ©2005-2015 Seed Media Group LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sites by Seed Media Group: Seed Media Group | ScienceBlogs | Research Blogging | SEEDMAGAZINE.COM