Alcohol and caffeine a loko blend
Published: Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 02:11
There's a new drink on campus. Four Loko, a high-powered energy drink that contains both alcohol and caffeine, has made headlines across the country as the new culprit lurking at college parties. An incident at Central Washington University on Oct. 8 resulted in the hospitalization of nine students with dangerously high blood alcohol levels after consuming Four Loko and other alcoholic beverages at a party.
Four Loko's name comes from its four main ingredients: alcohol, caffeine, taurine and guarana. Packaged in a 23.5 ounce can, the drink contains 12 percent alcohol by volume and comes in nine fruit flavors, such as fruit punch, lemonade and blue raspberry. The drink is legally sold in gas stations, grocery stores and liquor stores.
According to a video posted on abc.com, one can of Four Loko, also referred to as "blackout in a can," contains as much alcohol as a six-pack of light beer and as much caffeine as nearly two cups of coffee.
USM assistant professor of psychology Michael Madson said mixing a depressant (alcohol) and a stimulant (caffeine) in such a way poses serious risks.
"Combining these substances can be quite harmful, simply for the reason that individuals may feel as though they are less impaired than they actually are," Madson said. "Tiredness, coordination difficulties and even throwing up and passing out are part of the body's mechanisms to protect us from consuming amounts of alcohol that can be lethal. These substances mask this protective factor for us, so individuals feel as though they can keep on drinking. Well, you are still ingesting large quantities of alcohol, and the depressant effects on the body continue regardless. As such, an individual could end up drinking amounts of alcohol that depress their system so much that they stop breathing and die."
Another concern Four Loko brings to the table is its fruity flavor that masks the taste of alcohol, which may appeal to those who dislike the taste of alcohol. This, along with the fact that Four Loko is served in a single can, has been touted as deceitful to consumers.
"The high alcohol content in these drinks can mislead students," Madson said. "Often we think about how much we drank by number of drinks consumed, but we fail to recognize that the amount of alcohol in a drink influences us much more than the number.
When one can of Four Loko equals five or six beers, one's ability to evaluate and manage their alcohol intake is affected."
Southern Miss students who have tried Four Loko have mixed feelings about the drink, but all agree it makes them feel differently compared to other alcoholic beverages.
"It definitely hits you faster than beer," said Ryan Rome, a music major. "And I did feel more awake and not so drowsy."
"The taste is pretty good," said Hannah Pickard, an English major. "It makes it easier to drink than most beer."
In contrast, religion major West McKellar "felt like dying" after he and some friends drank Four Loko.
Whatever the experience, Madson believes more research on Four Loko is needed in order to better assess its effects and whether it is safe for consumption, for extensive research has not been conducted on drinks that mix alcohol and caffeine.
"My guess is instances such as the one in Washington will increase the investigation of these drinks," Madson said.