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Study shows cocktail mixers can affect level of intoxication

We recently wrote that personal breathalyzer tests are growing in popularity. An increasing number of Wisconsin residents who want to enjoy a social drinking life while avoiding potential legal troubles from an accidental DUI incident have found it helpful to invest in their own breathalyzer to take some of the guesswork out of deciding whether or not they are too impaired to drive.

Personal breathalyzers should only be used as a guide to gauge impairment, and they are not a guarantee that you won't be pulled over or that a police officer's breathalyzer machine would not give a different reading. However, these devices are almost assuredly more accurate than intuition alone, because how drunk you "feel" is often contextual.

In fact, a recent study reveals that your level of intoxication can actually be affected by the mixers you put in your cocktails. It turns out that trying to save calories by using diet soda could make you more intoxicated more quickly than using regular soda.

The small study involved 16 participants; an equal number of men and women between the ages of 21 and 33 years old. Researchers compared the effects of drinking vodka mixed with diet soda to the effects of vodka mixed with regular sugary soda.

After 40 minutes, the diet soda drinkers had a blood-alcohol concentration that registered 18 percent higher on a breath-alcohol test than their regular-soda-drinking counterparts.

As a result, it took only 3-4 drinks for diet soda drinkers to register a BAC above the legal limit for driving. In tests of reaction time, this group also performed more poorly than those who mixed alcohol with regular soda.

It may take additional studies and more research to confirm and explain these findings. However, the important point illustrated here is that feelings of intoxication are often subjective and contextual. Therefore, we can't always rely on biofeedback alone in order to determine if we are safe to drive after drinking. That's why investing in a personal breathalyzer may be a wise choice that could save you time, money and trouble in the future.

Source: Fox News, "Diet or regular? Choice of alcohol mixer affects intoxication," Rachael Rettner, Feb. 6, 2013

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