Alcoholic Beverages with Added Caffeine

December 7, 2010

Caffeinated alcoholic beverages, or CABs, are alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine as an additive and are packaged in combined form.

Alcoholic beverages to which caffeine has been added as a separate ingredient have raised health concerns at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as in other federal, state, and local agencies.

A Troubling Mix

According to data and expert opinion, caffeine can mask sensory cues that people may rely on to determine how intoxicated they are. This means that individuals drinking these beverages may consume more alcohol—and become more intoxicated—than they realize.  At the same time, caffeine does not change blood alcohol content levels, and thus does not reduce the risk of harms associated with drinking alcohol.

Studies suggest that drinking caffeine and alcohol together may lead to hazardous and life-threatening behaviors.  For example, serious concerns are raised about whether the combination of alcohol and caffeine is associated with an increased risk of alcohol-related consequences, including alcohol poisoning, sexual assault, and riding with a driver who is under the influence of alcohol.

Malt versions of premixed alcoholic beverages come in containers holding between 12 and 32 liquid ounces. Some may also contain stimulant ingredients in addition to caffeine.  Their advertised alcohol-by-volume value is as high as 12 percent, compared to standard beer’s usual value of 4 to 5 percent.

These alcoholic beverages are available in many states in convenience stores and other outlets. They often come in large, boldly colored cans comparable in size to “tall” cans of beer—or in containers resembling regular beer bottles.

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