Students across the nation are being hospitalized as a result of drinking the now controversial alcoholic energy drink, Four Loko. Common results include alcohol poisoning, seizures, blackouts and driving accidents.
The drink contains the equivalent six beers and five cups of coffee. Caffeine greatly reduces the effect of alcohol, causing students to continue drinking until they feel tipsy or drunk. As the caffeine wears off, the full effects of any consumed alcohol hits the drinker all at once, which has caused students across the nation to completely blackout, collapse or even start having seizures.
“The other problem with a lot of the caffeinated alcoholic drinks is they’re carbonated, and carbonation puts more carbon dioxide into your body, which increases the rate of absorbtion of the alcohol into your system,” Drug and Wellness Educator Lexi Prunella said. “So, on one hand, you don’t know how drunk you are, but then you’re getting drunker quicker.”
In a study done at the University of Florida, it was determined that students who drank alcohol mixed with caffeine also felt more alert and capable of driving.
In recent interviews, students stated that they had heard in the past that mixing uppers (caffeine) and downers (alcohol) was bad, but they had no idea why. Students are not aware of the impact that caffeine has on drinking. In spite of this, Four Loko has colorful cans and a variety of fruity flavors, clearly intended to be marketed towards a younger audience.
The impacts of have alcoholic beverages with energy supplements been shown across the country as school after school sees students get rushed to the hospital. In response, a number of schools have begun send out warnings to all of their students to avoid the drink and have asked local alcohol distributors to cease the sale of Four Loko and other alcohol energy drinks.
Several schools have taken actions a step further and banned these drinks from both campus and the surrounding areas. Liquor control groups are now pushing for the drink to be banned entirely.
Michigan has already banned the drink from the state and officials from New York, New Jersey, and Washington are urging the drink be banned from their states as well.
The movement against Four Loko started after nine students from Central Washington University, 17 students and nine visitors from Ramapo College, several students from Harvard College, and a number of other people around the nation started being rushed to the hospital after getting sick from alcohol poisoning during off-campus parties. In response to the recent incidents and outburst against Four Loko, the Food and Drug Administrator has begun to review the drinks safety.
In spite of the controversy, the company has continued to defend Four Loko. Supporters of the drink claim that mixing alcohol with energy drinks is nothing new and it should be up to individual discretion to know when to stop drinking. A ban of the drink would either not work or simply send people to the next drink, which would be just as bad as or even worse than Four Loko, according to reports. These supporters believe that the recent incidents are the fault of the students themselves and not the fault of the drink’s manufacturer.
Civil engineering student Jason Kewin stated he would never try an alcoholic energy drink.
“I definitely don’t think their safe,” Kewin said. “Energy drinks keep people awake and typically alcohol makes you lethargic or excited. If you get a combination of double excitement that’s not good, and if you’re able to stay awake and drink more that’s not good either.”
For better or for worse, incidents caused by Four Loko and actions against the beverage continue daily. Pending an FDA verdict, it is up to individual schools and states to decide whether or not to take action against the sale of alcoholic energy drinks.