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Do energy drinks in alcoholic cocktails make you drunker? Scientists say it may be a placebo effect

Posted May 13, 2017

Commercials of energy drinks Always say not to mix these beverages with alcohol. It may have some bad effects and makes people intoxicated quicker. However, a new study from the University of British Columbia found that it is not just energy drinks in cocktails that make people feel drunk – it is also a huge psychological aspect.

Energy drinks in cocktails do not make you more intoxicated, unless you believe they do. Image credit: Will Shenton via Wikimedia

You know what a placebo effect is – a drug works because people believe it will work. At the end of the day it may be good for them, because they start feeling better, but in terms of testing it is bad news for the drug – placebo effect in control groups usually means that either more tests have to be conducted or the new drug is simple ineffective. The same goes for energy drinks in cocktails. Scientists say that simply thinking that a cocktail has energy drink in it makes people feel more intoxicated and even act that way.

Some previous studies showed that mixing energy drinks with alcohol is actually a horrible idea, because people get intoxicated that much more. But then there were other studies that showed that there really is no effect. Scientists were puzzled over what differentiates feeling the effects of energy drinks in cocktail and not feeling any difference. And it turns out, it is knowing, it is expectations that something has to happen differently. But how do you measure drunkenness?

Scientists invited 154 young men and offered them some cocktails. Although all of them were the same, some of them had labels indicated presence of energy drink. Then participants had to complete some computer tasks, to assess their perceived drunkenness. And, as researchers predicted, emphasizing the presence of an energy drink significantly increased perceived intoxication, risk-taking and sexual self-confidence. In fact, it is still true that knowingly mixing energy drinks with alcohol increases the risk of experiencing or committing sexual assault or being involved in a car crash. But people know that already – scientists found that people who knew they were mixing energy drinks with vodka were less likely to drive.

And so the myth is busted – energy drinks in alcohol cocktails do not make you more intoxicated. It makes you think you are because of marketing language and some urban legends. Scientists say that marketing, implying or explicitly stating that energy drinks with alcohol make you drunker, should be addressed by law makers.


Source: University of British Columbia

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