Stimulant-enhanced beverages add new danger to alcohol consumption

November 5, 2010

( -- With growing concern about college students drinking stimulant-enhanced alcoholic beverages, the University of Rhode Island banned such drinks from campus.

The University announced Wednesday that URI President David M. Dooley approved the ban of beverages like Four Loko because URI officials believe such beverages pose a health risk equal to or greater than grain alcohol, tap systems, drinking games, and common source containers, all of which are already banned in the URI Student Handbook.

The national media recently reported an incident involving nine freshmen women at Central Washington University who were hospitalized after drinking at a party. At first, authorities believed the women had their drinks spiked by drugs. It turned out that all nine women reported drinking Four Lokos that night. Since that incident, Central Washington University and Ramapo College in New Jersey have banned Four Loko and other stimulant-enhanced alcoholic beverages on their campuses. In addition, a number of state attorneys general, including New York and New Jersey, and the Federal are investigating the legality of selling stimulant-enhanced alcoholic beverages.

Four Loko is of particular concern given that it is 12 percent alcohol by volume, and comes in 23.5-ounce cans. This means that each can of Four Loko is the equivalent of 4.7 standard drinks.

With high doses of caffeine and alcohol in one beverage, drinks like Four Loko make for a dangerous product.

“When you drink alcohol, eventually you feel tired and start to feel down because it is a depressant,” said Dan Graney assistant director of URI’s Office of Student Life for Substance Abuse Prevention. “When you add the caffeine, you stay up emotionally. You still get the high from the the alcohol, but you also have the buzz of the caffeine.”

Unlike regular alcoholic beverages that cause the body to trigger itself to slow down, the stimulant-enhanced keep a person more alert, leading them to drink even more.

“With these drinks, you are not getting that ‘slow down’ or tired affect until you ultimately pass out or throw up. By then, it’s too late to slow down,” Graney said.

Beyond the dangerous combination of high alcohol content and caffeine, these drinks are also marketed differently. The packaging is designed more like the energy drinks of Red Bull, Monster or Rockstar than any other alcoholic drinks. In states that allow alcohol to be sold in convenience stores, beverages like Four Loko are often shelved alongside the energy drinks.

“They do not advertise them as an energy drink, but they are branded just like them,” Graney said. “If you go to their web site, they make a point of saying it is not an energy drink. But the cans look alike.”

With a fruity, very sweet flavor, drinks like Four Loko are marketed for faster consumption than other alcohol. At $2.50 or $3 a can, it is a cheaper, faster way to get inebriated.

“It is very popular with the ‘pre-gaming’ and binge-drinking culture prevalent on college campuses,” Graney said. “It is essentially four drinks in one can. It is almost the definition of binge drinking.

“You get you wired so you can continue to drink. Many students might have one or two cans in an hour. Would you otherwise think of having eight drinks in one hour? That’s essentially what you are doing here.”

Explore further: Poll says drinking frequency on the rise

Related Stories

Poll says drinking frequency on the rise

August 2, 2006

The number of people in the United States who drink alcohol is holding steady but a Gallup Poll says the frequency of alcohol consumption is rising.

Too much Christmas cheer?

December 15, 2006

Christmas is a time when the drinks flow freely- there are more parties than usual and the temptation is to overindulge a little.

Energy drinks: The coffee of a new generation?

February 6, 2009

It's not uncommon for students to consume energy drinks to increase their concentration as they study throughout the night. "Energy drinks are the coffee of a new generation," says Stéphanie Côté, nutritionist ...

Caffeinated alcoholic drinks stir up legal concerns

August 28, 2009

Mix caffeine with malt liquor, add fruity flavors like grape or orange, and what do you get? Four Loko and Four Maxed, two beverages made by a Chicago-based company and aimed squarely at a twentysomething crowd weaned on ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Nov 06, 2010
If your standard drink is 8 grams of ethanol, then yes, I would consider drinking eight drinks in one hour.

Because that's equivalent to two and half pints of beer. (5% ABV)
1 / 5 (1) Nov 07, 2010
If you define a standard drink as 1.5 oz of 80 proof liquor, It's more like 14 grams of ethanol. 8 standard drinks would be the equivalent of 6 pints of 5% beer.

The article said 2 23.5 oz drinks at 12% which is closer to 9.4 standard drinks, or just over 7 pints of the beer.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.