Energy Drinks and Underage Drinking

Jill taylor

Have you talked with your patients about the potential dangers of high-caffeine, high-alcohol fusion drinks?

If it weren’t for the twenty-somethings that randomly wander in and out of my house over the weekends and holidays, I would have never heard that people were downing a concoction of vodka and Red Bull, and I likely would never have heard of Four Loco, the latest demon in the energy drink/alcohol craze.

, so come the protests from young drinkers, arguing -- and making some good points -- that banning a certain drink won’t dent the alcohol problem faces by college campuses. They also like to point to the students who have consumed Four Loco and not ended up in the hospital as evidence that the beverage can be consumed safely.

The latter part of the argument, of course, is where the proverbial rubber leaves the road. So far, the adverse effects on health have highlighted increased risky behaviors, but no one really understands the long-term effects of caffeine and alcohol combinations on the system when it comes to adult drinkers, let alone for those drinking under age.

And make no mistake — this product is designed to be appealing to kids. Just like a soda or sports drink, Four Loco sports brightly colored packaging, comes in fruity flavors, and is very, very cheap ($2.50 - $3.00 for a 23-ounce can). The fact that the alcohol content is 12% by volume is the knock-out punch, as evidenced by the popularity of Four Loco on Facebook.

Yes, the sale of Four Loco, as an alcoholic beverage is regulated such that it cannot be legally sold to kids. Kids are getting a hold of it anyway, probably easier than they could get a hold of beer due to the packaging.

While I’m sure this has been on the radar of healthcare professionals for quite some time, I wonder if parents are talking to tweens and teens about the dangers of alcoholic energy drinks? Four Loco itself may be under scrutiny, but the discovery of the energy drink and alcohol combination will likely be in the spot light for some time to come.