Buzzkill: FDA looks to ban caffeinated alcohol beverages

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Last week, the Food and Drug Administration notified a few dozen beverage manufacturers that they have 30 days to provide evidence that beverages with added caffeine and alcohol do not pose a risk to health or safety. While singly the substances are approved, the FDA requires approval for each specific use.

The problem is that caffeine, a stimulant, can mask the intoxicating effects of alcohol, a depressant. The body feels less fatigued, the mind is more alert, the drinker perceives a lessened degree of intoxication, which can encourage more excessive drinking. In fact the opposite is true. Both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, dehydrating the body and actually increasing the level of alcohol in the bloodstream. A wide-awake drunk can be a dangerous drunk, more prone to engage in aggressive and risky behavior. And underestimating the level of intoxication makes the drinker more likely to get behind the wheel of a car.

If you’re more than a few years out of college, you probably don’t know what the fuss is about. Caffeinated alcohol beverages have been manufactured by companies big and small for just a few years, and are increasingly a drink of choice among college students. Often fruit or chocolate flavored, with names like Hard Wired, Liquid Charge, and 3AM Vodka, the beverages are aimed squarely at a hard partying, youthful audience.

If you must have the caffeine and alcohol combination, you’ll still be able to mix your own rum and Coke or Red Bull with vodka, even if the FDA enacts the ban. But you’re better off if you pick your poison for the night before and save the coffee for the next morning’s hangover.

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