Energy cocktail drinkers don’t feel drunk, but they are, and they may very well be the people piloting the car home after a night of drinking.
Two recent studies, one Canadian, and one Brazilian, when taken together paint a slightly ominous picture of current club culture, and its implications for impaired driving.
The first study, out of the Federal University of Sao Paulo, investigated the effects both perceived and actual of mixing alcohol with energy drinks (such as red bull)…which are popular cocktails throughout the world’s bars and clubs. The stimulant nature of the energy drinks seem to reduce perceptions of some of the alcohol’s depressive effects, and people consuming red bull cocktails reported feeling less tired, less un coordinated, and stronger than those people who had consumed normal alcoholic cocktails. Popular for inducing an ability to dance all night, these cocktails seem to mask some of the perceived symptoms of intoxication, and people drinking energy drink cocktails underreport their level of intoxication as compared to people drinking conventional alcoholic drinks.
But when university researchers compared the reflexive and physio motor reactions of both the energy drink consuming and regular cocktail consuming groups, they found that although the energy drink group reported feeling less intoxicated, they performed equally poorly on measures of coordination and reactions times.
The second study, out of the University of Alberta, examined designated driver practices and compliance amongst young bar going people in the province. The study found that although many people do use designated drivers responsibly (rotating between members of a group) a significant percentage of bar goers do not; and fail to plan for the drive home before entering the bar to drink. The strategy employed by almost 1 in 5 is to simply select the seemingly least impaired person to perform the driving duties, whether actually impaired or not.
When you combine the results of the two studies, you seem to have a group of people drinking alcoholic energy drink cocktails, who do not realize how drunk they truly are, and these same people too often simply selecting a designated driver who appears most competent at the moment…a recipe for disaster to be sure.
But what’s to be done?
I don’t think that anything but enforcement carried much impact over drinking and driving behaviors, and to that effect law enforcement need to continue policing the late night roads, on the lookout for people who may be a lot drunker than they think they are. If you drink red bull or other energy drink cocktails, be aware that the stimulant effects of the energy drinks mask some of the depressive effects of the alcohol…but they do not lessen the physical effects of consumed alcohol, and you may be in worse shape than you think you are. Use a designated driver, call a cab, walk…don’t take foolish chances that can end a night of fun in tragedy.