If you’ve ever been to a college bar, you know that mixing energy drinks with liquor can be a recipe for disaster. Sure, it might be fun in the moment, creating a crazy, speedball effect of extreme focus and lowered inhibition. But more often than not, the night is ending in tears, vomit, and some very questionable decisions.
As it turns out, that insatiable grip the concoction has on hammered twenty-somethings isn’t just a placebo effect. According to a new study from researchers at Purdue University, the mixture “has the same effect on the brain as taking cocaine.”
'That’s right, using two groups of adolescent lab mice, scientists compared the animals’ brains on cocaine against those that had just consumed caffeine mixed with alcohol. Not only did the mice behave similarly after consuming both cocaine and the caffeine-infused liquor, apparently the concoction can also cause permanent damage by creating a protein called FosB—an indicator of long-term changes in brain chemistry.
As if things weren’t bad enough, the study also found that mice given the alcoholic mixture were able to build up a tolerance to cocaine, and were less sensitive to the effects of drug as they grew older.
“Mice that had been exposed to alcohol and caffeine were somewhat numb to the rewarding effects of cocaine as adults,” Dr. van Rijn said. “Mice that were exposed to highly caffeinated alcoholic drinks later found cocaine wasn’t as pleasurable. They may then use more cocaine to get the same effect.”
While there are currently a whole host of other consequences associated with blowing coke—like, you know, going to jail—the study is enough to make us pause before order our next super-charged cocktail.