Red Bull in the China Shop (Mixing Caffeine & Alcohol)

“Yeah, can I get a Red Bull and vodka?”

Like the trilling of some familiar nocturnal bird, this call can be heard nightly in beer-spattered college dives or the trendiest of clubs, and all places in between. The boost from caffeine combined with the intoxicating effect of liquor can be an attractive combination – energy and a buzz. Just look at all controversy surrounding Four Loko

But, does it put drinkers of these beverages at risk?

As with most things, it depends on whom you ask. The average college student is apt to respond with an order for another round. Some studies suggest, however, that there may be increased risk due to a couple obvious, if not strictly proven, concepts.

A study by the Wake Forest University School of Medicine found that those who consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks may not be able to accurately gauge their level of intoxication due to the added influence of a caffeine stimulant. In other words, the usual calling cards of drunkenness, like drowsiness and lapsing awareness, are staved off by caffeine.

Piggybacking on this effect is the ability of drinkers to drink more. Whereas Partier A may be more likely to call it a night after a few drinks, Partier A with a couple alcoholic energy drinks may have find the stamina to keep the party going a little longer – maybe a little too long.

Finally, another consideration is that energy drinks are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration, and therefore may contain elevated levels of caffeine. This is where Red Bull actually starts to look like a classy operation. At around 80mg of caffeine for a typical serving, Red Bull is now actually on the low end of caffeine content. Since competitors can’t match the company’s branding and subsequent popularity, the only way to compete is – you guessed it – adding more caffeine.

Now, for the same amount of product, some companies deliver up to 280mg of caffeine. And, these are also being used as mixers in bars, much to the delight of people who have trouble staying awake in bars.

So, the lesson is that mixing alcohol with energy drinks can be bad, in that it can result in increased impairment, which the Wake Forest study attributed to increased incidence of physical injury, sexual abuse and need for medical treatment.


Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid. Drinkwel is the world’s first daily multivitamin for healthy people who drink alcohol. For more info, check out our site:

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