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Four Loko proves dangerous among students

Staff Writer

Published: Thursday, October 28, 2010

Updated: Thursday, October 28, 2010 01:10


Sean M. Gates/The Chronicle

Nine students at Central Washington University in Ellensberg, Washington were hospitalized due to consumption of the popular alcoholic energy drink Four Loko. In the police report [], one female student admitted to drinking Four Loko and police found several large cans of Four Lokos lying around the house. The hospitalized students had blood alcohol levels ranging between .12 and .35. Any blood alcohol content higher than .30 is considered possibly fatal. A 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko can have an alcohol by volume rate of either 6 or 12 percent, depending on the regulation of the state that it's sold in.

Some of the effects of Four Loko and other alcoholic energy drinks on consumers have been severe. Hofstra freshman Anna Mikalef commented on the matter, "I knew a friend who drank a can and a half of Four Loko and after that I couldn't handle her so I had to have public safety take her home." Four Loko is sold at various locations around the University's campus including Citgo, Stop n' Shop and Subway on Hempstead Turnpike.

Several colleges and universities have scrutinized the drink, and some states have even considering having the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban it altogether. The Associated Press reported a story [] on Ramapo College in Mahwah, New Jersey where all caffeinated alcoholic beverages were banned after 23 students were hospitalized for alcoholic intoxication. The story does not signify that Four Lokos were the only drink consumed, but the reason for banning it was because administrators feared the consumption would lead to a "blackout in a can." Some media reports have linked Four Loko to the anti-gay beating in New York City earlier this month, where police found 10 cans of the drink at the scene.

Many people on the blogosphere have been raving about Four Loko. Somebodysblues, a blogger on Tumblr, said, "I drink Four Loko and enjoy it, but I can definitely understand how it can cause problems because it's so strong. Definitely not a drink you should be chugging." []

This incident is not the first time that an alcoholic energy drink has received backlash. In 2008 Anheuser Busch Company ceased its distribution of their alcoholic energy drink, Tilt and Bud Extra, after they found out about its illegal supply to underage drinkers. Later that year, Miller Brewing Company, the distributor of a similar alcoholic energy drink called Sparks stopped its allocation of the drink after being sued by a consumer advocacy group in the state of Washington for its unapproved additives.

The four ingredients that make up Four Loko - and contribute to its name - are caffeine, alcohol, guarana, and taurine. Caffeine improves alertness and mental performance in people who are sleep-deprived, it increases blood pressure and heart rate, and alters sleep methods. Alcohol can cause mood swings, disorientation, possible vomiting, and bad decision-making habits. But many students are unaware of the last two products named in Four Loko's contents: guarana and taurine. 

A popular fat loss website,, considers guarana is considered a "coffee bean on steroids." According to WebMD [], coffee has about 2% of caffeine by weight while guarana has about 6% to 7%. It is one of the highest concentrations of caffeine on the market. The long-term effects of guarana and caffeine are similar, "psychological dependence" being one of them. Dependence leads to what some students call "a caffeine addiction". 

Another ingredient, taurine, has natural effects. It is found in breast milk, meat, and fish. According to an article [ ] posted by Mayo Clinic's nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky, 3,000 milligrams of supplemental taurine is considered safe. It is also available as a dietary supplement. Despite its natural uses, taurine is also considered an inhibitory: the amino acid is used in suppressing epilepsy and anesthetics.

There have not been enough studies conducted to show the definite long-term effects of these caffeine-related ingredients, but it is possible that the newfound media buzz pertaining to this subject will hopefully initiate more in-depth research.

Four Loko's creators, Phusion Projects LLC, released a statement expressing that though they are upset that many students have been abusing the drink, banning Four Loko will not prevent students from abusing other alcoholic or alcoholic energy products, "Making college campuses safe and healthy environments for learning is a goal we share with administrators – even those who have chosen to ban our products. However, we also know that curbing alcohol abuse on college campuses will not be accomplished by singling out a lone product or beverage category."

Hofstra Senior Josh Zager agrees, "There are other combinations of alcohol that you can make. It's all about knowing how much you can drink and what you are drinking."

Phusion also defended their product, saying the drink was not the "primary" problem in the situation involving the nine Central Washington students, "…While our product is mentioned only twice in the 44-page police report, hard liquor, vodka, rum or other alcohol is mentioned at least 19 times; beer is mentioned at least 3 times; and illegal drugs or roofies are mentioned at least 14 times."

"It's more of an idea of responsibility than having the government regulate what you can and can't do and what you can and can't drink." said Zager.

The FDA has been researching into alcoholic energy drinks for the past year, but have yet to release any new findings.

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Matthew J. Weaver
Wed Dec 22 2010 15:01
this is a porly put together article.. the end throws me off.. it states how other alcohol was related in the police report and dugs as well.. but the pening statement or (thesis) trys to get you to believe that four lokos was the main (bad seed) of the party. my 12 year old stepsister culd have put together a better flowing article. thanks to thi article i get a great piece to critique for my english class =)
Sat Dec 4 2010 18:20
Alright, I have to call out a few things in this article.

"In 2008 Anheuser Busch Company ceased its distribution of their alcoholic energy drink, Tilt and Bud Extra, after they found out about its illegal supply to underage drinkers." Why would you stop making an alcoholic drink because it's getting to minors? It's not made for them. That's like if a South American drug dealer stopped growing marijuana because it got to the United States. It doesn't make sense.

"The long-term effects of guarana and caffeine are similar, "psychological dependence" being one of them. Dependence leads to what some students call "a caffeine addiction". "
Really? Caffeine addiction. The word addiction is used way to commonly these days. I love to sleep. Does that mean I have a sleep addiction? My friend loves making music. Is he music addicted? The word addiction means nothing to me.

"Some media reports have linked Four Loko to the anti-gay beating in New York City earlier this month, where police found 10 cans of the drink at the scene."
You can't just link things that are on the ground in New York City to events going on. NYC is disgusting.

But the main reason I wanted to discuss this article is because its main points are about underage drinking. Top stories about 4 lokos on the news were underaged drinkers and some had to do with underaged drunk drivers. Minors aren't even suppose to be drinking so why are the efforts of the governments trying to stop the drinks production when they should be going to STOPPING THE DRINKS FROM GETTING TO THE YOUTH.

Let 21 and up drink whatever they want. Typically they can handle themselves. This is also about responsibility. It's about knowing your limits and constraints to what youre doing. If youre going to drink a beverage that's been nicknamed black out in a can, please make sure you're with someone who is not drinking black out in a can. This is clearly just targeting the stupid and dimwitted.

I hope to god that the average person knows better than to chug a drink with a nickname such as that. and I hope that the average person doesn't drink alone or with other people who aren't smart enough to keep someone around who can properly think just in case things get out of hand.

Let not the few stupid ruin it for the majority

Fri Oct 29 2010 17:43
Thu Oct 28 2010 07:44
Alcohol use by young people is dangerous, not only because of the risks associated with acute impairment, but also because of the threat to their long-term development & well being.

Research shows that adolescent alcohol use has the potential to trigger long-term biological changes that may alter an adolescent's development as well as affect the adolescent's immediate behavior. The resulting adverse outcomes may include:

-Mental disorders such as anxiety & depressive disorders
-Neurocognitive impairment
-Impaired memory
-Altered sensitivity to motor impairment
-Damage to the frontal anterior cortical regions (ie. the development of self-regulation, judgment, reasoning, problem solving, & impulse control)
-Possible disruption in normal growth
-Effects on liver, bone, & endocrine development
-Disrupted developmental changes in hormones associated with puberty in males & females

For more evidence-based information on Alcohol Dependence & Abuse, please visit us at

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