Tips for Parents
Caffeinated Alcoholic Energy Drinks: The Four Loko Effect
Four Loko, the caffeinated alcoholic energy drink, came crashing into campus consciousness last fall when nine Central Washington University students were hospitalized after drinking it at an off-campus party. They initially were thought to have ingested drinks spiked with a "date rape drug."
Some students mixed the drink — which contains 6 percent or 12 percent alcohol per 23.5-ounce can, depending on state regulations — with additional alcohol. Others had blood alcohol levels ranging from .12 to .35 percent, according to CWU President James L. Gaudino.
Consuming More Than Usual
Officials say the caffeine in Four Loko may delay the effects of alcohol consumption, which can lead someone to consume more than they normally would. As a result, the malt liquor beverage is often referred to as "blackout in a can." The drink comes in fruit flavors and sells for approximately $2.50 per can.
Bans Both On and Off Campus
Peter Mercer, the president of Ramapo College in New Jersey, banned alcoholic energy drinks last fall after 23 students were hospitalized with alcohol intoxication over the course of several weeks. Mercer told Inside Higher Ed that students described the effects to him as being like three beers, a can of Red Bull, and a large espresso times three or four.
The Michigan Liquor Control Commission banned Four Loko and 54 other similar drinks last November. Washington, Utah, Oklahoma and New York have also banned Four Loko with other states following suit.
The FDA is currently investigating whether mixing alcohol and caffeine into one beverage is safe for consumption. And campuses from Harvard to the University of Rhode Island are warning students about the dangers of Four Loko, advising them to steer clear of the drink.
"A Red-Flag Behavior"
Researcher Kathleen E. Miller at the Research Institute on Addictions at the State University of New York at Buffalo has found that students who drink energy drinks, with or without alcohol, are more likely to engage in risky behavior like drug use, binge drinking or smoking. Imbibing energy drinks "isn't necessarily a gateway behavior, but it is what you might call a red-flag behavior," she told Inside Higher Ed.
Consider talking with your student about the dangers of Four Loko and similar drinks. Many students just don't realize the heightened safety issues associated with them.
Sources: MSNBC.com, 10/25/10; Inside Higher Ed, 10/24/10; Yahoo News, 11/5/10; Los Angeles Times, 11/5/10; Nowpublic.com, 11/16/10
Four Loko Facts
- Contains 6% or 12% alcohol per 23.5-ounce can, depending on state regulations
- Often called "blackout in a can"
- Sells for approximately $2.50 per can
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