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Red Bull speed-ball?

  1. Jun 30, 2013 #1

    Is vodka and red-bull a speed-ball? Some where I went out to last night were drinking that. Sounds like it may be common. I am of course interested in this medically and not humorously.

    Last edited: Jun 30, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 30, 2013 #2
    I used to call that the poor man's speedball. And I'm no doctor, but I doubt you're gonna end up like John Belushi or River Phoenix if you pop a couple of those babies with the crew on a Saturday night :wink:
  4. Jun 30, 2013 #3


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    Vodka + high caffeine drink = dumb
  5. Jul 1, 2013 #4
    Oh you guys don't understand, you guys don't understand . . . I already talked to her about it dang it! She was acting . . . unusually wild, not vulgar, just what I guess a party-animal and I was trying to approach it in a scientific manner and concluded it must have been the drink. She said she had drank three. She gave me a taste (didn't realize it was a speed-ball at the time). My daughter and her boyfriend were with us that night. I talked to her about it . . .
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2013
  6. Jul 1, 2013 #5


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    No. A speedball is slang for mixing cocaine and heroin. Obviously something not healthy. Redbull and vodka, while not healthy certainly isn't on par with speedballing, but nevertheless isn't a healthy habit either. Redbull, like Evo points out, contains lots of caffeine--which is a stimulant or "upper", while alcohol is a sedative or "downer". Mixing the two certainly isn't a great idea. The stimulating effects of caffeine can mask the sedative effects of alcohol, causing a person to continue to drink more than a safe amount. Leading to sedation, respiratory depression and death in severe cases.

    There have been some studies (forgive me I dont have time to pull them right now, but just search for caffeinated alcoholic drinks and health risks) which show people are even more likely to engage in risky behaviors than compared to just drinking alone; such as drinking and driving.

    Not to mention that both have diuretic effects and are like to leave you even more dehydrated and hungover in the morning.
  7. Jul 2, 2013 #6
    If we define speedballing as the simultaneous ingestion of a stimulant and a depressant, then the concoction would qualify as such.

    I suppose though we could also define it in terms of it's physiological effects on the body like heart rate, temperature, other factors. I would expect the physiological effects of alcohol and red bull to resemble the effects of cocaine and heroin albeit perhaps in a milder way.

    Would make for an interesting study. First we need to define precisely what are those effects and are they similar in the two cases.

    Oh yeah, my son has since informed me that lots of people drink red bull and alcohol. I am so disappointed in the resourcefulness of people to regularly come up with new ways of ingesting drugs.
  8. Jul 2, 2013 #7
    "perhaps" a milder way?

    I don't advocate drinking either red bull or vodka either alone or in combination, but to put this in the same class as a heroin-cocaine speedball is a big stretch. They are not even in the same ballpark, hence my humor in my previous post. With a real speedball you run the danger of an acute respiratory and/or cardiac collapse upon the initial administration. This is a very serious and very real danger for even the most experienced users and regardless of their health. The chance of an ordinary college student running such a risk by having a red bull and vodka out at Applebees on a Saturday night is so vanishingly small that to seriously call it a speedball is misplaced. That's why me calling it a "poor man's speedball" is supposed to be funny.

    I mean, we could stretch the definition to say to say that if I mix a melatonin and a cup of coffee, that's also a speedball, right? What if I'm watching an action flick while my girlfriend is giving me a neck rub? Speedball?

    Of course, if that college student starts to pound red bull and vodkas one after another, especially in a drinking contest or binge sort of way, then they certainly are going to be in trouble.
  9. Jul 2, 2013 #8
    I disagree. They are in the same ballpark for the following reason: Caffeine is a stimulant, and alcohol is a depressant. Also, the term "speedball" is not reserved exclusively for the cocaine/heroin concoction but rather for a more wider class of depressant/stimulant mixtures as per the Wikipedia article on "speedballs".

    I suppose I should have asked the more concise question:

    Are the physiological and psychological effects of ingesting alcohol and caffeine simultaneously and in a sufficient dose, similar to the effects of ingesting cocaine and opium simultaneously?
  10. Jul 2, 2013 #9
    The answer to that would be: perhaps qualitatively but not quantitatively, "gram for gram" under normal usage, as far as the physiological.

    As far as the psychological, they are two very different "highs" to use a colloquial term. The opiate high is qualitatively different from alcohol high and they have different abuse trajectories. It is much more difficult to overdose to death drinking alcohol that it is injecting heroin. This is for a variety of reasons, but the main one is that tolerance builds much more quickly with opiates than alcohol and so does the threshold of getting high versus overdosing. Especially when talking about injecting the drug versus drinking it. No matter how much of a seasoned drinker you are, you are likely to get sick and vomit far below your overdose threshold. Granted, if you're drinking a caffeinated beverage while you are doing it, it changes that dynamic somewhat, but not in a way qualitatively comparable to injecting a heroin-cocaine speedball.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2013
  11. Jul 2, 2013 #10
    I'm afraid that's not empirical enough for me. This is a medical forum and I think we should try to give them what they want: empiricism. I was hoping to approach the comparison in a more quantitative version similar to what we might encounter reading one of those fancy medical journals like what Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, or that real popular one, JAMA I think it's called. What would we expect a study of the two cases to look like in those journals?

    Just what exactly are the physiological and psychological effects of each drug combo and are those effects qualitatively (not quantitatively), similar?

    I suppose we'd have to run some studies on college students. Not sure we could give them cocaine/heroin mixtures though. Surely though this data has already been compiled but Red Bull is new. Has any empirical data been obtained with it? We could do a study if not can call it:

    The physiological and psychological effects of alcohol when consumed simultaneously with highly-caffeinated energy drinks.

    And include the cocaine/heroin comparison.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2013
  12. Jul 2, 2013 #11
    I seriously doubt we will ever see such a study. I'd venture to guess that there are already a good number of studies out there dealing with the health effects of energy drinks alone since this is currently a popular concern, and most likely there are studies dealing with the combined effects of energy drinks and alcohol. Try searching pubmed or some other resource if you're interested.
  13. Jul 3, 2013 #12


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    I really don't see how you could argue that a vodka red bull is on par with simultaneous ingestion of cocaine and heroin. The latter are well studied for the negative health effects they have and it is well known that they are worse than alcohol and caffeine. Also perhaps this is a cultural thing but in my country a vodka redbull is a very popular and common drink, never heard of anyone having any significant medical problems because of it (compared to just ingestion of alcohol).

    Searching for alcohol and energy drinks gives plenty of scaremongering news articles but not much actual research. I've found this PDF from a Welsh alcohol agency outlining some of the potential risks but concluding that further research needs to be done:
    http://www.drinkwisewales.org.uk/__assets/alcoholconcern_mixed-messages.pdf [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  14. Jul 3, 2013 #13
    I can't believe you're arguing with me over this Ryan. But perhaps your use of the word "par" resolves the issue. No, not "par" with cocaine/heroin as I believe I sufficiently explained above. Rather, "qualitatively similar".

    I mean are there any members in this forum reading this and agree with me that the effects of alcohol/Red bull mixtures "may be" qualitatively similar to the effects of cocaine/heroin? Ergo Dirac's suggestion of researching it or actually doing clinical studies. But that is the fun of it isn't it? That's the research part, the empirical part, the . . . "real science" part of it isn't it. And that's what we're all about in here. :)
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2013
  15. Jul 3, 2013 #14


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    To be honest I doubt their even qualitively similar to a significant degree. Yes you can broadly categorise them into stimulants and depressants but cocaine and caffeine have different pathways and different effects, expecially when used regularly. This isn't something that needs a big review, you could do this research yourself. Why not look up the full effects of caffeine, cocaine, alcohol and heroine on the body and see how qualitatively similar they are?
  16. Jul 4, 2013 #15
    Ryan, Ryan, it needs a big review in a way sadly not biochemical but alas this is a medical forum and that discussion would be the dreaded "off-subject" kind I think. And yes I could do the (web) research myself and see how qualitatively similar or dis-similar they are. Yes, yes I should do that especially since I made a deal about the science thing. I might not though. Well, I've already done that sort of thing a lot that's why. Now if someone else reading this for instance, a young person entering science for example, were to obtain that data and clearly show (quantitatively, i.e,. with data) the pathways are dis-similar qualitatively and the effects likewise, then we could obtain two birds with one stone: the one being a valuable lesion in science and the second, that I should immediately apologize to you and admit that I was wrong for thinking they were similar.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2013
  17. Jul 5, 2013 #16


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    Bike and truck can be both used to move from point A to point B, so there exist a very broad category "means of transport" that accommodates both, but making direct comparisons doesn't make much sense.
  18. Jul 5, 2013 #17
    It makes sense just to do it Borek. Don't you think so? Finding out is the fun part and of course it's chemistry! And to be honest with you guys, I really thought a "speed ball" was speed+heroin and not cocane so if I may do so, I would like the comparison be done with speed and heroin. That is for example, are the paths and effects of speed qualitatively similar to caffeine? For example, we or me likely, could look at the metabolism of amphetamine and compare that with caffeine. I would be interested if the metabolic pathways cross paths, that is, if there is a common intermediate species. If that's the case, then I would argue they are "qualitatively similar" in terms of metabolic pathways. I could then look at the physiological effects of both like heart rate, blood pressure, other effects and then compare them. For example, if speed raises heart rate 25% and caffeine raises is only 5%, then that is qualitatively similar.

    I argue that if I were to do these comparisons, I would find similarities of a qualitative nature.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2013
  19. Jul 5, 2013 #18


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    It doesn't need a big review. The metabolic effects of these four chemicals are well studied. It would be well within your means to look up and compare them yourself. You don't have to write a paper on it, you could even start by looking up sites that give information on recreational drugs as they typically include legal ones too.
  20. Jul 5, 2013 #19
    Fine then Ryan. I'll do so at your request but I may take a while. If, during my study I find I am in error insisting the two are similar, I will make amends.

    Caveat: I will of course focus on my original interpretation of "speed-ball" which is a speed/ heroin mixture. That was the topic of discussion in my opinion. That is, I will argue the effects of amphetamine and caffeine on the body are similar and at the time of this writing I really don't know conclusively if they are. That's the fun of it isn't it? :)
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2013
  21. Jul 5, 2013 #20


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    Excellent. I'm interested to read what you find.
  22. Jul 5, 2013 #21
    I'm interested to see what you review is going to be too. Here's a few issues your likely to come up against that might be worth addressing in your report. I assume your plan of attack is going to be comparing measures such as blood pressure, heart rate, pupil dilation, galvanic skin response, etc. in relation to the administration of the drug(s). And then to compare those measures between a heroin-cocaine (or meth) speedball, and a red-bull and vodka. That would be interesting to know if you can find studies where the controls were similar between the two. But what does that tell us? Autonomic reactions to drugs including alcohol and caffeine are largely dependent upon the experience and tolerance of the user, so to find a "clean" comparison your going to need to find subjects who have not been exposed, much at least, to these drugs already. Good luck.

    Also, even if you do find a clean comparison, just using those autonomic measures will neglect the pathways through which those drugs work. From my last investigation, nobody really knows how alcohol works on the brain. When I last checked it was thought to work through interaction with inhibitory GABA receptors in the cortex (and likely sub-cortex). Only secondarily does it affect dopaminergic reward pathways subcortically. Heroin and cocaine, on the other hand, work directly on the meso-limbic reward pathways by acting on opiate and dopaminergic receptors relatively directly. This is one reason why it is much easier to overdose on a heroin-cocaine speedball than a martini.

    So, at the end of the day, you need to specify what you are seeking to find with this comparison. What is your goal? To compare the abuse potential between the two? To compare the risk of overdose and death between the two? Or just to have a scientifically backed reason to put a vodka-red bull in the same category as a heroin-cocaine speedball in order to scare the kids? I think you need to state that more explicitly in your introduction. What are you seeking to achieve by placing these in the same category?
  23. Jul 5, 2013 #22

    D H

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    This Red Bull / vodka mix is just a newfangled version of Irish coffee and other coffee-based alcoholic drinks. These have been around for a long time. This anti-Red Bull/vodka campaign looks a lot like scaremongering to me.
  24. Jul 5, 2013 #23


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    There have been studies on the negative effects of mixing energy drinks with alcohol. It's not like adding alcohol to plain coffee. Energy drinks have many times the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee, plus additional ingredients. The alcohols mixed with coffee like Bailey's and Frangelico are only 17% alcohol while vodka is 40%. Let's keep this about facts and peer reviewed studies please.


    Last edited: Jul 5, 2013
  25. Jul 8, 2013 #24
    I'll have it Friday. I want it to look pretty and well-supported by scientific facts. The review is a biochemical review of the neurochemistry of the drugs. I already have most of it and if I were bettin' a dollar on this gig, I'd expect soon to have two dollars in my pocket.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2013
  26. Jul 12, 2013 #25
    Hi guys, I cannot do justice to the field of receptor chemistry in a measly seven days. Nevertheless, I am a man of commitment so have prepared a very short summary of my review of these chemicals. Had to post a PDF cus' I wanted to post pretty molecular structures since geometry plays such a central role in receptor chemistry. At the receptor level, I can identify similarities in the pharmacology between amphetamine and caffeine and between alcohol and heroin.

    Attached Files:

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