Despite their popularity among college campuses, caffeinated alcoholic beverages that contain a potentially lethal combination of caffeine and alcohol have been removed from the shelves in the U.S. following reports of students becoming dangerously drunk.
One beverage in particular is called Four Loko, a fruit-flavored energy drink that contains 12% alcohol, making it twice as strong as a regular beer, and one 23.5 oz (694ml) can contain as much caffeine as a tall Starbucks coffee.
Four Loko is one of a variety of similar drinks for sale in the U.S. and last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called on the top four producers in this category to remove the beverages from shelves this month.
Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, the FDA’s principal deputy commissioner, has said that evidence suggested that the mix of caffeine and alcohol posed a “public health concern.”
Some college students have seen it as an “inexpensive way to get drunk” at about $1.50 per can and others have reported abusing the beverage, drinking up to three cans in an hour.
In New Jersey, Ramapo College has banned Four Loko from campus after several students reportedly became ill after consuming the beverage.
Why is it so dangerous? Caffeine is a mild stimulant that increases alertness and heart rate, while alcohol is a depressant that causes lethargy and loss of normal faculties.
“When someone mixes them, we believe that the caffeine masks the depressant effects of the alcohol,” Bruce Goldberger, a toxicologist from the University of Florida told BBC News.
Four Loko will continue to be on sale, but now without the caffeine.
Have you tried Four Loko? Did you like it or did you experience any adverse affects?