Alcohol + Energy Drinks = Bad Behavior

Apparently, chugging vodka and Red Bull isn’t a good idea.

A new study finds that college athletes are significantly more likely to engage in energy-binge drinking when consuming alcohol than non-athletes. Athletes who combined alcohol and energy drinks, 150 of the 401 surveyed, also consumed more than double the amount of alcohol when compared to athletes who consumed alcohol-only. The survey by Oklahoma State and University of Missouri researchers also found that when people drink “energy cocktails” there were significant increases in risk-taking. This was especially true in men.

Researchers found by mixing caffeine with alcohol the college athletes became more intoxicated and therefore engaged in riskier behavior, than with alcohol alone. In addition, the researchers noted, drinking a stimulant and a depressant at the same time can be dangerous because it sends mixed signals to the body and the body doesn’t know how to respond. The researchers also found those who drink “energy cocktails” are more likely to be hurt or injured and more likely to ride with an intoxicated driver.

Besides increased overall alcohol consumption and risk-taking, the study also found links to health problems and negative consequences associated with the “energy cocktails”. Researchers found the combination of caffeine with alcohol, along with the other substances influenced brain functioning. According to the study, overindulging in these cocktails could affect motivation, concentration, mood and can create or exacerbate mental problems.

With so many of these stimulants in the body, study author, Dr. Conrad Woolsey from Oklahoma State University says, “this can cause a sort of manic depressive state afterwards and over time can lead to anxiety disorders, especially in young people.”

Judging medical research via news accounts, even coming from Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s blog, is never a good idea.  But it occurs to me that the direction of the causality isn’t obvious here.   It’s not inconceivable  people  combining energy drinks and alcohol are actually trying to get drunk and more likely to engage in risky behavior to begin with.

Beyond that, while energy drinks have slightly higher levels of caffeine than ordinary sodas, people have been mixing spirits and cola drinks for more than a century.  Indeed, I recommend it!

In terms of mixing performance drinks and alcohol, however, I would point readers to my Manzine piece “Sports Drunks.”   G2 lime and tequila is especially tasty.

FILED UNDER: Health, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Scott says:

    Personally, I recommend 1/3 each of Vodka, Triple-Sec, and Green Monster Energy.