Recent studies suggest that the combination of caffeine-containing drinks together with alcohol might reduce the subjective feelings of alcohol intoxication-the so-called ‘masking effect’.
In an Austrian study, researchers aimed to review the effects of alcohol in combination with caffeine or energy drink with special focus on the ‘masking effect’. Fifty-two healthy male volunteers were analysed concerning breath alcohol concentration and subjective sensations of intoxication using a 18 item Visual Analogue Scale in a randomised, double-blinded, controlled, four treatments cross-over trial after consumption of (A) placebo, (B) alcohol (vodka 37.5 % at a dose of 46.5 g ethanol), (C) alcohol in combination with caffeine at a dose of 80 mg (equivalent to one 250 ml can of energy drink) and (D) alcohol in combination with energy drink at a dose of 250 ml (one can). Primary variables were headache, weakness, salivation and motor coordination.
Out of four primary variables, weakness and motor coordination showed a statistically significant difference between alcohol and non-alcohol group, out of 14 secondary variables, five more variables (dizziness, alterations in sight, alterations in walking, agitation and alterations in speech) also showed significant differences due mainly to contrasts with the non-alcohol group. In none of these end points, could a statistically significant effect be found for the additional ingestion of energy drink or caffeine on the subjective feelings of alcohol intoxication.
Therefore, this within-subjects study does not confirm the presence of a “masking effect” when combining caffeine or energy drink with alcohol.
Source: Effects of alcohol mixed with energy drink and alcohol alone on subjective intoxication. Ulbrich A, Hemberger SH, Loidl A, Dufek S, Pablik E, Fodor S, Herle M, Aufricht C. Amino Acids. 2013 Nov 1.