Diet Drinks Get You Drunk Faster

Mixing alcohol with diet drinks may cut calories, but it's also a shortcut to inebriation. ->

Ever wonder why one cocktail sometimes gives you a bigger buzz than another?

It could be what's in the mixer.

If it's a diet drink, a new study found the breath alcohol concentration peaked quicker - and higher - than cocktails mixed with sweetened soda.

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"The best way to think about these effects is that sugar-sweetened alcohol mixers slow down the absorption of alcohol into bloodstream," said Dennis Thombs, professor and chair of the department of behavioral and community health at UNT Health Science Center, and author of a similar study, in a statement.

"Artificially sweetened alcohol mixers do not really elevate alcohol intoxication. Rather, the lack of sugar simply allows the rate of alcohol absorption to occur without hindrance."

But the new research, to be published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, showed that drinkers didn't realize the differences. The researchers recorded the subjects' perception of feelings of intoxication, impairment, and willingness to drive.

"Moreover, their behavior was more impaired when subjects consumed the diet mixer," said study author Cecile Marczinski, assistant professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University. "More attention needs to be paid to how alcohol is being consumed in the ‘real world.'"

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Earlier research found that women were the most frequent drinkers of diet cocktails, and that they had the higher breath alcohol concentrations compared to other bar patrons.

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Marczinski's team lined up eight mean and eight women to drink a placebo or vodka mixed with Squirt or vodka mixed with diet Squirt. The researchers recorded both breath alcohol concentrations and self-reported ratings of intoxication, fatigue, impairment, and willingness to drive. Then they give each participant a time reaction test.

"From a public health perspective, artificially sweetened alcohol mixers may place young women at greater risk for a range of problems associated with acute alcohol intoxication," Thombs said.

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