Think adding a little caffeine to your alcohol buzz might improve your judgment? Guess again.
(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A Red Bull energy drink mixed with vodka sits on the bar at Sloppy Joe's in Key West, Florida.
A Red Bull energy drink mixed with vodka sits on the bar at Sloppy Joe's in Key West, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
College-aged bar patrons who mix alcohol and caffeine—think Red Bull and vodka—are more likely to leave the joints drunker than their pals who drink alcohol alone. And here's the scarier part: the caffeinated boozers are four times more likely to want to drive home.
Researchers at the University of Florida interviewed about 800 randomly selected college-aged bar patrons as they left bars between the hours of 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.
The people who agreed to be part of the study completed questionnaires that asked how much alcohol and caffeine they'd consumed, and whether they planned to drive home. Researchers also tested their breath for alcohol concentration.
They found that drinkers who mix alcohol and caffeine were significantly more likely to leave bars drunker than patrons who stuck with alcohol alone. The results appear in the journal Addictive Behaviors.
There's growing evidence that mixing alcohol and caffeine can be dangerous. A prior study by researchers at Wake Forest University found that about 28% of college drinkers try this common combo in a typical month. The researchers found that the mix can significantly increase the risk of dangerous consequences, including personal injury.
Attorneys general in more than a dozen states are cracking down on the marketing of alcoholic drinks that include stimulants to young adults. In 2008, Anheuser Busch announced it would stop making alcoholic energy drinks. And in recent months, the Food and Drug Administration have called on beverage companies to prove their alcoholic energy drinks aren't dangerous.
But even FDA action on combination products wouldn't stop bartenders from mixing the buzz-inducing cocktails that are popular with young people.
Many imbibers say they feel less drunk when they add the caffeine, but that's an illusion. "They believe the stimulant effect counteracts the depressant effect of alcohol," said Bruce Goldberger, a toxicology professor at the University of Florida and senior author of the new study. "But that's not what's going on."