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Published on Oct 28, 2010 by Edgar Snyder

The Four Loko Scare: The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Caffeine

Four Loko risk

Many of you may have seen the recent news story about Four Loko, a high-alcohol energy drink that caused a pretty big scare at an off-campus party at Central Washington University (CWU). Nine students were so intoxicated that investigators thought they had been drugged, but it turned out they had all consumed Four Loko. Mixing caffeine and alcohol is becoming more and more popular, but there are some serious risks involved that everyone should know about.

Here are some of the dangerous effects of drinking alcohol with caffeine, according to a University of Florida study:

  • Stimulants like caffeine hide the effects of alcohol (without actually counteracting them), which means a person may drink more than normal. The CWU students were hospitalized with blood-alcohol levels that ranged from 0.12 percent to 0.35 percent and one student almost died. A blood-alcohol concentration of 0.30 percent is considered to be potentially lethal. In fact, a blood-alcohol content of 0.35 is the same as being under general anesthesia and your breathing may stop.
  • People who drink caffeinated alcoholic beverages are four times more likely to want to drive drunk.
  • Consumption of caffeinated alcoholic beverages significantly increases the risk of dangerous consequences, including personal injury.

    As of now, the FDA is still reviewing whether or not caffeinated alcoholic beverages are safe. In the meantime, several states and colleges are taking matters into their own hands. Here's what's being done:
  • A few states, including New York and Washington, have sought to completely ban the drinks.
  • Utah and Montana have limited the sale of caffeinated malt liquors to just state liquor stores.
  • The president of New Jersey's Ramapo College banned alcoholic energy drinks from its campus last month after attributing several students' hospitalizations to Four Loko.
  • The president of Central Washington University banned the beverages from its campus.

While I'm glad that this issue is gaining more attention, it came with a high price. Nine students were in serious danger, and just one more drink could have led to irreversible consequences. I hope that the government moves quickly on this issue and does all that it can to address the risks that these drinks pose.

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