Surprise! Caffeine + Alcohol = Drunk

Reuters reports on the jaw-dropping findings of Brazilian researchers: drinking Red Bull does not magically negate the chemical effects of alcohol on the human body.

It’s not every day that a news organization gets to report on a study so controversial that it threatens to tear asunder the prevailing scientific paradigm of the age.

Yesterday, however, MSNBC published a Reuters article about some radical scientific findings that calls to mind Thomas S. Kuhn’s seminal work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The jaw-dropping headline? “Energy drink cocktails don’t stop alcohol effects.”

What followed was a summary of a new study by some Brazilian researchers who have been investigating the mysterious relationship between energy drinks and alcohol. The results of the paper are sure to make waves in the scientific community — particularly among university researchers who have staked their careers on developing a better understanding of the Red Bull and vodka.

According to the researchers’ clinical trials (which consisted of studying some 26 young men), drinking Red Bull does not magically negate the chemical effects of alcohol on the human body. Yet, at the same time, the researchers found that after consuming a few too many Red-Bull-and-vodkas their test subjects tended to think they were more sober than they actually were.

“In experiments with young male volunteers,” noted Reuters, “Brazilian researchers found that the men were no less impaired when they drank a mix of alcohol and the energy drink Red Bull than when they downed a standard mixed drink. Drinkers did, however, seem to think they were less drunk — reporting less fatigue, fewer headache symptoms and better coordination.”

The illuminating story, however, failed to answer some important related questions. For example, after knocking back a couple of Red Bull mixers at a bar, do guys also think that they’re more attractive than they actually are? Clearly, more research is needed.

In the meantime, the current findings are being published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research — a journal that, unlike, say, Science or Nature, doesn’t always attract much press attention. We can only imagine how excited the Reuters staff must have felt when they stumbled upon this study — probably almost as excited as the 26 volunteers who got to toss back Red Bull-and-vodkas in the name of science.

We look forward to the day when Reuters breaks its next big story about barflies and energy drinks. We can imagine the headline now: “Scientists Say: Red Bull And Vodka Doesn’t Give You Wings.”

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Felix Gillette writes about the media for The New York Observer.