Energy-Alcohol Beverage Puts Young Adults at High Risk

July 16, 2010

The new drink, Four Loko, is apparently the equivalent of eight cups of coffee and three beers.

A new energy-alcohol beverage that combines caffeine with alcohol that reportedly leaves users feeling “alert but relaxed” is now at the center of investigations in a number of states to determine the health risks that the beverage poses.

Four Loko, which is manufactured by Phusion Projects in Chicago, apparently contains the equivalent of eight cups of coffee and three beers, is defined by UrbanDictionary.com as “legalized cocaine in a can,” and is available in a number of different fruit flavors. The beverage, which is particularly popular among young adults and has a Facebook page with more than 100,000 fans, apparently causes aggressive behavior, vomiting and diarrhea the day after consumption, and hours-long blackouts.

However, the health risks that Four Loko poses are now being investigated by attorneys general in California, Connecticut, New York, and other states. Charles Schumer, a New York senator, is now urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Four Loko and other similar products that “appear to be explicitly designed to attract underage drinkers.” According to a report from the Associated Press, Schumer believes the cans are colorfully designed “to befuddle parents and police with labels that resemble nonalcoholic energy drinks.”

According to the Rev. William Rocky Brown III, a candidate for the Pennsylvania state House of Representatives and chairman of the Law Enforcement Chaplains of Delaware County, Four Loko and beverages like it “are fueling the violence” seen in the community. Brown cited the health risks posed by Four Loko, which also includes paranoia.

Primary care physicians, pediatricians, and other physicians who treat young adults should become aware of the dangers posed by Four Loko, which has not been approved by the FDA, to help educate young adults and their parents. In addition to previously mentioned health risks, the beverage also puts drinkers at great risk for dehydration, as both alcohol and caffeine are diuretics.

A Wake Forest University study from last year found that “college students who combine alcohol and caffeine are more likely to suffer alcohol-related injuries than students who drink only alcohol.”