Alcohol and Caffeine in Energy Drinks

Professor Souryal

In a recent publication, Dr. Sarah Kerrigan published a study to determine whether "nonalcoholic" energy drinks produce detectable alcohol concentration in human subjects. The study involved a commercial transdermal alcohol detection system that is being used in criminal justice settings. The device consists of an ankle bracelet that measures alcohol electrochemically via the skin in a continuous manner. Remote monitoring of the transdermal alcohol concentration (TAC) via modem identifies alcohol use in the subject by generating an "alcohol alert." The purpose of the study was to determine the scientific validity of the "energy drink defense" whereby subjects wearing the device claim that consumption of non-alcoholic energy drinks produces a "false positive" alcohol alert. The FDA considers beverages containing less than 0.5% alcohol to be "non-alcoholic," and these do not need to contain the government warning statement or list ethanol as an ingredient. Eleven energy drinks were investigated in total. Ethanol ranged in concentration from 0.03 to 0.230% (w/v), and caffeine content per 8-oz serving ranged from 65 to 126 mg. A total of 15 human subjects participating in the study consumed between 6 and 8 energy drinks (180 Red Energy) over an 8-hour period. Although alcohol was detected in some subjects, none produced elevations in transdermal alcohol concentration sufficient to produce an "alcohol alert" (<0.02>Journal of Analytical Toxicology.

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