It had been suggested by previous research that mixing an energy drink with alcohol may mask the effects of alcohol, but a new study has found that it may actually lead people to believe they are even more intoxicated. 

The study involved 154 young men who were all given the same cocktail of energy drink, vodka and fruit juice. However, the researchers used three different labels on the drinks: vodka and Red Bull, vodka cocktail, and fruit juice cocktail.

Results showed that the vodka and Red Bull label was associated with a 51% increase in perceived intoxication compared to the other two labels. The association was particularly strong among individuals who stated a belief that mixing in an energy drink can boost the effects of liquor. An increase in risk-taking behavior was also noted in subjects who drank the vodka and Red Bull labelled drink. However, participants in this group did wait longer before getting behind the wheel because of perceived intoxication. 

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The authors of the study believe marketing has a large role to play in the behaviors demonstrated by the study participants. “Red Bull has long used the slogan ‘Red Bull gives you wings’, but our study shows that this type of advertising can make people think it has intoxicating qualities when it doesn’t,” said lead author and Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia, Yann Cornil. 

“The psychological effect of the marketing influences the consumer’s expectations and as a result, their behavior,” write the authors. Regardless of whether the consumers feeling is part of a placebo effect, it still may impact expectations and behavior.

The full results of the study are published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

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