Alcohol-Induced Impairment of Balance is Antagonized by Energy Drinks

Cecile A. Marczinski, Mark T. Fillmore, Amy L. Stamates, Sarah F. Maloney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: The acute administration of alcohol reliably impairs balance and motor coordination. While it is common for consumers to ingest alcohol with other stimulant drugs (e.g., caffeine, nicotine), little is known whether prototypical alcohol-induced balance impairments are altered by stimulant drugs. The purpose of this study was to examine whether the coadministration of a high-caffeine energy drink with alcohol can antagonize expected alcohol-induced increases in body sway. Methods: Sixteen social drinkers (of equal gender) participated in 4 separate double-blind dose administration sessions that involved consumption of alcohol and energy drinks, alone and in combination. Following dose administration, participants completed automated assessments of balance stability (both eyes open and eyes closed) measured using the Biosway Portable Balance System. Participants completed several subjective measures including self-reported ratings of sedation, stimulation, fatigue, and impairment. Blood pressure and pulse rate were recorded repeatedly. Results: The acute administration of alcohol increased body sway, and the coadministration of energy drinks antagonized this impairment. When participants closed their eyes, alcohol-induced body sway was similar whether or not energy drinks were ingested. While alcohol administration increased ratings of sedation and fatigue, energy drink administration increased ratings of stimulation and reduced ratings of fatigue. Modest increases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure following energy drink administration were also observed. Conclusions: Visual assessment of balance impairment is frequently used to indicate that an individual has consumed too much alcohol (e.g., as part of police-standardized field sobriety testing or by a bartender assessing when someone should no longer be served more alcohol). The current findings suggest that energy drinks can antagonize alcohol-induced increases in body sway, indicating that future work is needed to determine whether this observation regarding neuromotor functioning applies to alcohol in combination with all types of stimulant drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-152
Number of pages9
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2017 by the Research Society on Alcoholism


  • Alcohol
  • Balance
  • Blood Pressure
  • Energy Drinks
  • Motor Control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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