Looks like science has thrown us another curveball. Researchers at an American university have discovered that drinking lots of vodka-Red Bull – or, really, any vodka-energy drink combo – could have a similar effect on young people's brains as doing cocaine.
In an experiment, Professor Richard Van Rijn of Purdue University, Indiana found that adolescent mice who'd been given a mixture of alcohol and caffeine exhibited similar physical and neurological traits to mice given cocaine. "It seems the two substances together push them over a limit that causes changes in their behaviour and changes the neurochemistry in their brains," he said.
Anyway, on hearing this news my first thoughts were with cocaine dealers. Think about it: why would I – hypothetically – want to splash out £80 on some 4 percent gear when I could get the same hit off a mix of Glen's and Monster?
To see if coke sellers are fearful about all the business they're about to lose, I called a load of them up to ask. Below are the exchanges I had with people who didn't immediately hang up or tell me to fuck off, with names changed for obvious reasons.
VICE: Hi there. This isn't about buying drugs.
Yeah, I just need to ask you if you've heard that drinking vodka with an energy drink has the same effect on your brain as cocaine?
Does it? I haven't heard that one.
Do you think that news is going to fuck your business up?
Of course not. That's the most silly thing I've ever heard – vodka-Red Bull has been around for ages.
Do you think it's true, though, that the two are basically one and the same?
Depends on the science behind it, but I don't think it could be 'cos they are massively different substances. Sounds to me like a Red Bull publicity stunt.
I'm almost certain it's not. But say they do have the same effect, why is one legal and the other's not?
Well, coke isn't legal for many reasons…
Well, fucking hell, I don't know why not. Why is Red Bull legal? Doesn't it contain bull semen or something? Never mind what your coke is cut with, Red Bull is cut with fucking bull semen.
[For reasons of fairness and accuracy, just going to point out here that Red Bull does not contain bull semen.]
Hi Fred. Have you heard that vodka and energy drinks mixed together could supposedly have the same effect on you as coke?
Fred: You mean in the sense that it quickens your heart rate and keeps you awake? Yes.
Are you worried it will take away your customers?
I don't think people are ready to stop putting things up their noses just yet.
So you think coke still has more to offer?
Well, of course – I think the ritual of it is more poetic than mixing vodka with a Red Bull.
Right. So why isn't cocaine legal if it's so much more poetic than vodka-Red Bull?
For all intents and purposes, it is legal – well, in terms of personal usage.
Fair enough. Thanks, Fred.
Hi Sheila, are you aware that drinking vodka mixed with an energy drink supposedly does the same things to your brain as doing a line of coke?
Sheila: Nah, I had no idea. I doubt it, though.
I just assumed that packet would be worse for you.
Do you think these kind of drinks supposedly having the same effect as coke will dent your business?
No way – people like smashing packet. If you sold vodka-Red Bull in wraps and cocaine in cans, people would still pay for whatever is in the wrap.
That's an interesting theory. But do you think coke has more to offer?
In a placebo sense, yes. If they both have the same effect, packet will always offer more.
Obviously people love the effect that drugs have, but there is also a sense of romanticism in the rebelliousness of taking them.
That's deep. So why isn't coke legal if they have the same effect?
Because there's a war on drugs.
Do you agree with the war on drugs?
Not one bit.
But if there wasn't one you'd be out of business.
Oh yeah, that's true. No wait, yeah, I would still be in business; it would be the same as marijuana being legal in the US – I'd just have more people to sell to.
WATCH: 'Inside the UK's Ecstasy Underworld', the first episode of 'High Society', our new documentary series about drugs in the UK
Have you heard that drinking vodka with an energy drink supposedly has the same effect as a line of cocaine?
Bruce: I haven't heard that, no. I personally don't agree with it.
Why not? Science says so – you can't disagree with science.
Well, when I finish a vodka-Red Bull I don't automatically insist on downing another one straight away and get all weird about it if I can't.
Good point. Do you think the news will affect the cocaine trade?
Not at all.
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