Is the Las Vegas drink of choice, the Vodka Red Bull, as potent as the Las Vegas drug of choice, cocaine?
According to a new study from Purdue University, it just might be: The data suggests that the two intoxicants have equally potent effects in mice. Furthermore, the research notes that adolescents that consume a lot of Vodka Red Bulls may find the effect of cocaine less rewarding later in life.
This sounds like a pretty good tradeoff until the researchers mention that it may only encourage people to consume more cocaine to make up for the decreased high. This research, it should be noted, was conducted with the use of adolescent mice, which the researchers say is a comparable model for humans.
“Mice that had been exposed to alcohol and caffeine were somewhat numb to the rewarding effect of cocaine as adults,” lead author Richard van Rijn said in a release. “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.”
When the researchers gave adolescent mice high-caffeine energy drinks mixed with alcohol, they found that the two substances combined caused physical and neurochemical reactions in the mice similar to those that resulted when other mice were given cocaine. In addition to becoming increasingly active, the mice had increased levels of the protein FosB, which is also observed in mice that are high on cocaine. In short, the neurochemistry of their brains had changed to match that of brains on the class A drug.
To test whether the dulled affect of cocaine would make the mice want more cocaine after binging on Vodka Red Bulls, the researchers swapped out cocaine, and tested the theory with another pleasurable substance: artificial sweetener. The mice loaded up on caffeine and alcohol drank more artificial sweetener than the mice who had only been exposed to water during adolescence, which confirms the researchers’ theory that the caffeinated mice were conditioned to seek out higher-than-usual levels of pleasure.
It’s important to note that this study is only concerned with the after-affects of an adolescent brain on Vodka Red Bull, so the same conjectures can’t be made for adults. Even so, Vice asked actual cocaine dealers whether they were concerned the fruit of their trade would be replayed by caffeinated booze — to which the answer was a nonplussed nah.