We’ve all heard of people who have taken caffeine while drinking alcohol. Recently though, a breakout of cases where students, as well as others, have ended up the hospital after they had drinks that contained both caffeine and alcohol in the same can. College and health officials are very alarmed and concerned by these occurrences.
Doctors report that the drinks are dangerous, because the caffeine conceals the effects of the alcohol, preventing those who drink them to feel just how intoxicated they really are.
There is a brand in particular, called Four Loko, a fruit-flavored malt beverage with an alcohol content of 12 percent containing as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, that has come under specific criticism. Students at Ramapo College in Mahwah, N.J. and Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington, drank it and wound up in emergency rooms, some with very elevated levels of alcohol poisoning.
Dr. Michael Reihart, an emergency room doctor in Lancaster, Pa., said it “is one of the most dangerous new alcohol concoctions I have ever seen.” He has treated more than twelve teenagers and adults in the last three months who came to him after drinking Four Loko. He said it is a deadly recipe because your body naturally wants to sleep, but it is tricked by the caffeine.
After 18 attorney generals urged that the drinks be examined, the Food and Drug Administration is looking into whether or not the drinks are safe. The FDA has never approved of adding caffeine to alcohol. In July, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., asked the FTC to investigate if the drinks are especially designed to appeal to underage drinkers. It is a fact that the drinks have colorful packaging and flavors such as watermelon, blue raspberry and lemon-line.
Even though no legislation has passed yet, several states have tried to ban the drinks.
The president of Ramapo College, Dr. Peter Mercer, banned Four Loko and other energy drinks that contain caffeine and alcohol after 6 students ended up in the hospital after drinking Four Loko. One of the students said he had 3 three cans of Four Loko and a couple of shots of tequila in only one hour. He had a blood alcohol level of .400 after this.
The co-founder and managing partner of Phusion Projects, which is the 5-year-old Chicago company that owns Four Loko, said that the drink, introduced in August of 2008, was being unfairly scrutinized. According to him, the company takes measures to try to keep minors from being able to obtain the drink. Also, Phusion Projects wonders why a police investigation into the Central Washington University incident had centered on Four Loko, when the police report claimed that several other alcoholic drinks, including beer, were also discovered at the party where the students became sick.