Alcohol and Caffeine – An Uneasy Alliance?

For most people, alcohol and caffeine are separate topics. You likely enjoy a morning cup of java and then finish your day off with a cold craft beer. However, for a growing segment of society, alcohol and caffeine are combined in a single beverage. This doesn't apply to those Red Bull and liquor drinks mixed at your favorite watering hole. Specifically, these drinks are billed as "energy beer" or something similar.

There are several brands out there that mix both alcohol and caffeine – Sparks and Four Loko are two of the most popular, though they're far from the only ones. These drinks offer the kick of a Red Bull or a Monster, plus the buzz of a strong beer. Many actually have more alcohol in them than a lot of beers. While this combination might not sound particularly appealing to those of us who love a good craft beer, they do hold considerable appeal for the younger generation. Are these drinks safe, though?

While the FDA did initially approve them for sale, there are those who don't like them, particularly state governments. The most serious issue here seems to be the fact that the drinks lead off with a massive caffeine rush. When that rush dies, there are still the alcohol effects to deal with. College students are probably the most notorious imbibers of these beverages, largely because they "help you party longer." When the caffeine from one drink wears off, simply open another and it's back into peak performance you go. However, the buzz from the caffeine hides some of the effects of the alcohol, making it difficult to judge just how drunk you might be.

Alabama is just one of the states taking a strong stand against these drinks. In fact, they have gone so far as to make them illegal to sell or distribute in any area of the state. This comes on the heels of the FDA's announcement that energy beers might actually be a bit dangerous. Alabama has ordered all stores and wholesalers to stop selling these drinks immediately, and to pull any existing product from store shelves.

However, the new regulations do not affect other drinks. For instance, those that combine alcohol with coffee or tea (any beverage that naturally contains caffeine) is fine. It also does not apply to any drinks mixed by hand at a bar. It also does not affect any manufacturers who might have reformulated their beverages to include the alcohol but omit the caffeine.