Your Health

Four Loko Alcoholic Energy Drinks Blamed For Sickening College Students

alcoholic energy drinks
Four Loko

Drinks that mix alcohol and caffeine are under scrutiny once again after dozens of Central Washington University students got sick and nine were hospitalized after admitting they had been drinking Four Loko.

No question Four Loko and other alcoholic energy drinks look cool and offer drinkers a buzz.

But there are a whole lot of questions being raised about whether these kinds of products are safe and whether they are improperly marketed to young drinkers.

That's what has Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and others calling for the Food and Drug Administration to step in. "The FDA needs to determine once and for all if these drinks are safe, and if they’re not, they ought to be banned,” said Schumer in a statement back in July.

The maker of Four Loko says it's upset about the products being abused and consumed illegally by underage drinkers, according to a statement on the company's website.

Also on the website, a description of Four Loko's lemon-lime flavored drink:

A wild blend of tart Lemon flavor, with a sharp Lime twist, 12% alcohol and modern day ingredients such as Caffeine, Guarana and Taurine, all packed into a huge 23.5 ounce can.

Ken Brigs, head of Physical Education and Public Health at Central Washington University puts it differently. He tells the Los Angeles Times: "Essentially what you have is you have about a six pack of beer... and five cups of coffee in one of these cans."

Bruce Goldberger, director of toxicology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, tells ABC News: "It is popular among young folks. The marketing and packaging has so much to do with it."

And, as NPR's Allison Aubrey reported last February, people who mix alcohol and caffeine are more likely to leave a bar drunk and think they're fine to drive home.

So what's being done? The FDA launched an investigation nearly a year ago into the safety of caffeinated alcohol products.They have yet to release any findings publicly. "That is still underway," a spokesman says of the investigation.

Some major manufacturers stopped making these drinks altogether, and some college campuses have banned them.

For its part, Four Loko agrees in its statement with the intent of the bans, even if it doesn't like the finger pointing:

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.

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