Can energy drinks lower the intensity of the depressant effects of alcohol?

Alcohol is known as a depressant.  This means it is a so-called downer, or lowers neurotransmission levels, so that stimulation or arousal can be lowered in different areas of the brain.  Energy drinks, like Red Bull, are known as stimulators, which means they can raise levels of physiological or nervous activity.  Energy drinks can almost “cover” the effects of alcohol, making one think they are too alert to be drunk and decide to drink more.  Most studies are done on if drinking Red Bull and vodka together is bad for you, but did anyone ever test if energy drinks could have a good effect when combined with alcohol?  As a matter of fact, they did!


A study was done in April 2006 by Sionaldo Eduardo Ferreira, Marco Tulio de Mello, Sabine Pompeia, and Maria Lucia Oliveira de Souza-Formigoni on the effects of energy drinks and alcohol together.  They wanted to test if the use of energy drinks could lower the intensity of the depressant effects of alcohol.  The depressant effects could be things such as just bad motor coordination, or can be bigger things such as depression.  The study took twenty-six healthy people and randomly put them in two groups.  One group was given .6g/kg of alcohol and the other group was given 1.0g/kg of alcohol.  They were both given 3.57mL/kg of Red Bull.  They did the experiment three times, seven days apart, with alcohol and Red Bull, just alcohol, or just Red Bull.  They then tested intoxication, breath alcohol concentration (BAC), motor coordination, and visual reaction time.  This was a controlled treatment and a double-blind procedure.

This experiment had many results.  The alcohol and Red Bull together lowered the person’s headaches, dry mouth, weakness, and impaired motor coordination greatly compared to just alcohol alone.  But the energy drink did not extremely lower the effects of alcohol on motor coordination and visual reaction time.  The energy drink did not change the breath alcohol concentration in either of the groups.  These scientists concluded that even though some symptoms of the alcohol were not as intense after the alcohol and Red Bull,  the motor coordination and visual reaction time were not reduced because of it.  Having one dose of Red Bull lowered how intense some symptoms of alcohol are, but did not really lower all of the problems with alcohol consumption.  In the end, they decided there needed to be more testing done to really confirm their experiment.

This was an okay study, but I feel it could have been done differently.  Maybe they should have used more than one type of energy drink.  They could have gotten a bigger control group, that way a little portion of people out of it could each try the experiment with a different energy drink.  They could have also tested the emotional aspects of the alcohol and the vodka, such as if the person was happy or sad after consuming the Red Bull and vodka.  In the end, they did not necessarily have an answer to their question.  They should have also done more than three run-throughs with the trial.  Three is not enough to have a definite answer.  Until next time…


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