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OFFBEAT: Nix this mix and clip those wings

Commentary • Mar 23, 2010 at 6:24 PM

By CORY FROLIK, Huron County Reporter for the Register

Rappers hype the mixture.

It's actor Vince Vaughn's favorite cocktail.

And bars in Sandusky and all across Ohio regularly offer it as a drink special.

People have mixed Red Bull and hard liquor since the sugary energy soda was first introduced in the late 1990s, but the combination in recent years has become a signature American drink, a favorite of celebrities, college students and young drinkers alike.

Advertisements say "Red Bull gives you wings," but they remain silent on what Red Bull mixed with hard alcohol will do.

Some evidence suggests crashing is a more likely outcome than flying.

Research at the University of Florida found that people who combined alcohol and caffeinated energy drinks were three times as likely to leave a bar highly intoxicated and four times as likely to plan to get behind the wheel than people who drank alcohol alone.

In a release from the college, lead researcher Dennis Thombs said the findings suggest caffeine overcomes the sedating effects of alcohol, causing people to believe they are less intoxicated than they are.

"The average breath-alcohol concentration reading for those who mixed alcohol and energy drinks was 0.109, well above the legal driving limit of 0.08," the release states. "Consumers of energy drink cocktails also left bars later at night, drank for longer periods of time, ingested more grams of ethanol and were four times more likely to express an intention to drive within the hour than patrons who drank alcohol only."

Caffeine does some amazing things.

It makes staying awake for morning Algebra classes possible, and it is a great thing to sip while discussing the latest school levy or newest twist in the Cedar Fair saga.

But caffeine is not a cure for drunkenness.

A cup of coffee is no more capable of sobering a person up than a cup of yard clippings.

As Thombs' research shows, people who drank caffeinated drinks and alcohol together did not experience improved motor coordination and were not less inebriated.

They only believed these things happened.

And few things on this Earth are more dangerous and unpredictable than a very tipsy person who is very convinced he or she is not drunk.

Red Bull, Monster Energy Drinks, Rockstar Energy Drink and the countless other supercharged sodas that have cropped up in recent years are marketed to young people.

"Unleash the beast," reads one advertisement.

"Party like a rockstar," reads another.

If energy drinks on their own can cause people to live it up like rock stars and get beastly, maybe introducing alcohol into the equation isn't the best idea.

Beasts are bad enough.

Imagine what drunken beasts can do.

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