Four Loko Caffeinated Drink Health Effects: Good, Bad, Dangerous?

Four Loko, a caffeinated beverage popular among today’s college kids, may be legal and all but you should be extra careful when you are drinking it? Why, you ask? Well, did you know that a 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko has an alcohol content of 12 percent and is equivalent to drinking five to six cans of beer?

four loko bad health effects

No wonder some 50 students from Central Washington University got sick after drinking large amounts of the controversial drink at a party. According to news reports, nine of these students have to be hospitalized.

More from Business Week:

An investigation has determined that a high-alcohol caffeinated drink, not date-rape drugs, sickened Central Washington University students at an off-campus party earlier this month.

Students at the party had blood-alcohol levels that ranged from 0.12 percent to 0.35 percent after consuming cans of the drink called Four Loko, CWU President James L. Gaudino said at a news conference Monday. Other students mixed the drink with additional alcohol, he said.

Nine students were hospitalized after the Oct. 8 party at a house in Roslyn, where about 50 people had been drinking.

Four Loko is made by Phusion Projects Inc., of Chicago. It comes in several varieties, including fruit punch and blue raspberry.

Nicknamed “blackout in a can” and “liquid cocaine,” Four Loko is banned in several campuses because of its ill effects.

Update: Alarmed by the popularity of Four Loko among students, the Boston University Director for Student Health Services and the chief of police made the extraordinary move of warning students about the bad side effects of the energy drink. Check it out below

Dear Friends,

We want to pass along this important message about a potentially dangerous alcohol drink that has received some national press recently. We share this information so that you can continue to make smart choices about your personal health and safety while at Boston University.

There has been much fanfare recently about a fruity malt liquor called “Four Loko” and the attendant side effects which have been referred to as, “Blackout in a can.” Alcohol companies are targeting college students with these products without regard for your safety. National attention has been focused on this particular beverage because of a couple of very troubling incidents at Central Washington University and Ramapo College in Northern New Jersey.

We want to take this opportunity to provide you with some information about caffeinated alcoholic beverages and about mixing caffeine and alcohol in an effort to aid you in your decision making. Mixing alcohol and caffeine is not a new concept, but the recent cases involving students who were hospitalized after drinking beverages combining the two in a large can, is a cause for concern across college campuses and elsewhere around the co! untry. At the request of 18 attorney generals the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing whether the drinks are safe.

Four Loko is one example of a caffeinated alcoholic beverage. The 23 ounce can of this drink contains an equivalent amount of alcohol to four 12 ounce beers and 156 milligrams of caffeine. The danger here is not just the alcohol content but rather, the combination of high amounts of alcohol and caffeine.

Drinking high amounts of caffeine can cause symptoms like rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, feeling jittery and nausea. When consumed in combination with alcohol, caffeine may produce the feeling of being “wide awake” despite the fact that one may be intoxicated on alcohol. The fact that the depressant effects of alcohol are mitigated by the caffeine may lead people to continue to drink alcohol and thereby become dangerously drunk.

We strongly recommend that you steer clear of these types of drinks and from mixing alcohol with other caffeine containing beverages. We also recommend that you avoid mixing other substances with alcohol as a general rule. Boston University is concerned for your personal safety and we hope that you will use this information to make wise health choices.

With best regards,

Dr. David McBride
Director, Student Health Services

Thomas Robbins
Chief of Police

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For more alcohol-related blog entries check out our earlier post about genetics and alcohol tolerance as well as the link between moderate amount of alcohol and lower arthritis levels.