Science recently confirmed something partiers have known for a long time: a Vodka Red Bull is the evil nighttime elixir that makes everyone who drinks it act batshit crazy.
Does it mean you now have an excuse for punching that bouncer in the jaw? Or throwing your good shoe off the rooftop bar? Or for having sex with that murky hookup?
Maybe. It was the cocktail’s fault, after all. Or more specifically, the chemicals inside of it.
That’s part of what the University of Portsmouth tested by marinating live fish in different alcoholic tanks — trying to discern how different combinations and quantities of alcohol and taurine (a key ingredient in Red Bull and other energy drinks) affected them.
In order to do that, they were going to need to get some fish drunk. And drunk they got.
(The research used Zebrafish, to be precise. They have spines, so, according to these scientists, they’re close enough to mammals — and therefore human beings — that we can assume the findings also translate to us.)
They took 192 of these lucky suckers and dunked them into separate “shoals” that consisted of either just water, water with taurine, water with alcohol, or taurine and alcohol combined in water. They then sat back to observe the debauchery, measuring results in three intervals: 0-5 minutes, 30-35 minutes, and 55-60 minutes.
And what they discovered, only confirms age-old suspicions about Vodka Red Bulls.
The Vodka Red Bull fish not only had a more severely “reduced fear response” but they also showed more drastically “affected social communication” than the other fish in the study. Which is to say, they observed the mixed drink zebrafish acting “riskier” than the other groups of fish, and being less social with each other. Basically, it took all of the negative effects of alcohol and amplified them.
“This study is the first to show that the two together [alcohol and taurine] may be exacerbating some of the negative effects of binge drinking,” says Dr. Matt Parker, the co-author of the study and Senior Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth. “That is reduction of fear and problems in social communication while intoxicated, which collectively increase the risk of fighting, violence and participation in risky behaviours.”
For instance, one corner of the tank was designed to mimic the presence of a physical threat — the “predator zone” — while the other groups of fish generally stayed away from that corner. The Vodka Red Bull fish didn’t seem to care or give any kind of discernable fuck about the potential danger.
Parker attributes these findings to the overly aggressive nature many drinkers exhibit when they’ve gone a little too far on the VRB train. Fights start between members of this special breed of binge drinker because they have both reduced fear responses and reduced social skills — a dangerous combo. It's one that often lends itself to savage fistfights in parking lots outside bars, screaming arguments with SO’s, and mornings full of shame and regret.
“Taken together, these data appear to suggest that mixing alcohol and taurine might be a factor in increasing some of the negative effects of alcohol,” Parker says. “People should be aware that drinking energy drinks in combination with alcohol may impair their judgment, and should do so with caution.”
That may sound like an obvious statement. However, the combination caffeine/alcohol in a drink is why the original Four Loko recipe was banned in five out of 50 U.S. states. Remember those? Those insane concoctions of reptilian backwash, alcohol, and caffeine, that would turn you into Mr. Hyde in a mere 24 fluid ounces? They were dangerous and got people a little too turnt.
According to Parker and his research, combining vodka and Red Bull might not be so different.
Which makes perfect sense. And still probably won’t stop most people from sucking back the sinister drunk before the bars, fueling up on them at the bars, and even drinking a couple afterward.
How else will people stay up all night drinking?