Caffeine and Alcohol – NOT a Good Mix

On Friday, the newly reinvigorated FDA sent a letter to 30 beverage manufacturers, giving them one month to show that caffeine in alcoholic beverages is indeed safe for consumption.

“Today the FDA has listed caffeine only as an ingredient for use in soft drinks,” said Deputy Commissioner Dr. Joshua Sharfstein. “The agency has not approved caffeine for use in alcoholic beverages.”

What started a decade ago with youngsters mixing red-bull into vodka at parties, has become a national “epidemic”. College students are now spared the mixing and can get caffeinated booz directly from one one bottle or can. The market for caffeinated alcoholic drinks is about 1% of the total beer industry, or about $1 billion.

What you need to know:

Some young people mistakenly believe that the caffeine will cancel the effect of the alcohol. In fact, they become alert drunks.

Studies have shown that mixing alcohol, a depressant, and caffeine, a stimulant, can cause people to feel less drunk than they actually are. As a result, simultaneously wired and inebriated college kids are more prone to accidents and over time, alcoholism.

Last year, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer watchdog organization, warned both MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch of its intent to sue them over the caffeination of alcoholic beverages. Several state attorneys had also sent inquiries to manufacturers.

Those actions helped Anheuser-Busch decide to take caffeine and other unapproved additives out of its two alcoholic energy drinks, Bud Extra and Tilt in June 2008. In December 2008, Miller Coors, the giant beer conglomerate, cut the caffeine out of its popular Sparks beverage.

Now that the FDA is weighing in on the issue, hopefully the rest of the industry will follow suit. Unfortunately, collegiate party animals will still be left with the original option of mixing energy drinks and alcohol, a choice that hopefully less of them will make.

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