Background: Well-known reports suggest that the use of energy drinks might reduce the intensity of the depressant effects of alcohol. However, there is little scientific evidence to support this hypothesis.
Objective and methods: The present study aimed at evaluating the effects of the simultaneous ingestion of an alcohol (vodka(37.5%v/v)) and an energy drink (Red Bull-3.57 mL/kg), compared with those presented after the ingestion of an alcohol or an energy drink alone. Twenty-six young healthy volunteers were randomly assigned to 2 groups that received 0.6 or 1.0 g/kg alcohol, respectively. They all completed 3 experimental sessions in random order, 7 days apart: alcohol alone, energy drink alone, or alcohol plus energy drink. We evaluated the volunteers' breath alcohol concentration, subjective sensations of intoxication, objective effects on their motor coordination, and visual reaction time.
Results: When compared with the ingestion of alcohol alone, the ingestion of alcohol plus energy drink significantly reduced subjects' perception of headache, weakness, dry mouth, and impairment of motor coordination. However, the ingestion of the energy drink did not significantly reduce the deficits caused by alcohol on objective motor coordination and visual reaction time. The ingestion of the energy drink did not alter the breath alcohol concentration in either group.
Conclusions: Even though the subjective perceptions of some symptoms of alcohol intoxication were less intense after the combined ingestion of the alcohol plus energy drink, these effects were not detected in objective measures of motor coordination and visual reaction time, as well as on the breath alcohol concentration.