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That's loko....

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Friday, November 5, 2010

That's loko....

I didn't really know what Four Loko was, but I knew that it was causing all sorts of uproars on college campuses nationwide.  So, what is the big deal?  Why is it being banned by college campuses and now on state levels?

So, basically it is an 'alcopop' an alcoholic energy drink named Four because of its four main ingredients: alcohol, guarana, taurine, and caffeine. It is basically a caffeinated, alcoholic malt beverage. It ranges in alcohol by Volume (ABV) from 6 to 12.5 depending on state regulations, and comes in different flavors: orange, blue raspberry, lemon lime, lemonade, cranberry lemonade, grape, fruit punch, and citrus.  One 23.5oz can of Four Loko has the equivalent to 5-6 cans of beer and two cups of coffee or 1.5 cans of Red Bull!  It has been dubbed "blackout in a can" and "liquid cocaine" so clearly, it is really good to binge drink (BEING SUPER SARCASTIC!!)

It sounds just like any other fruity malt beverage at the liquor store, right?  Well, the real issue is the caffeine, guarana, and taurine that have been added.  When you drink alcohol along with caffeine, the caffeine keeps you alert and awake, and you feel less drunk, so you tend to drink more. You are mixing an "upper" (caffeine) with a "downer" (alcohol) which can give you energy and relax you all at the same time.  The problem with drinking these super energy drinks with alcohol is that you get jazzed up on the caffeine, guarana, taurine, so you have a great time, and totally booze it up, your body is hyper metabolizing the alcohol.....and then the energy effects wear off, your body has all of this alcohol in your blood that it needs to metabolize, and before you know it, you are super drunk and have alcohol poisoning.

In 2008, Anheuser-Busch actually reformulated drinks that they had on the market, that were of a similar vein, after the Attorney General started to question the safety of these products, looking into possible health risks due to masking the feelings of intoxication.  But, smaller companies didn't fall under investigation due to the size of their companies and smaller companies popping up all the time.  This fall, Temple University, Boston University, and Northeastern University all sent emails to their students and staff warning of the dangers of Four Loko stating that it contains unhealthy amounts of caffeine and alcohol.

The actual health risks of these drinks are many: rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure (people with cardiac problems are put at risk for heart attack and stroke), severe dehydration, and there is a much higher rate of alcohol poisoning (as earlier stated).  Also, seeing as Guarana and Taurine are not FDA regulated supplements, you really don't know what you are putting in your body...but you do know that you will get an energy boost.

A study performed at the University of Florida, Gainesville showed that students who drank alcohol and caffeine beverages thought that they were less drunk and able to drive safely, more than students who just drank alcohol.  Also, when people drink caffeine and alcohol they tend to over-judge their abilities and take more risks than they normally would (including drug use and unprotected sex). That is pretty scary.

Numerous college Heath Centers are reporting hospitalizing students due to blackouts and alcohol poisoning at much higher rates when Four Loko is involved. In October 2010, 50 students got sick and 9 students at Central Washington University were sent to the hospital with alcohol poisoning after being at a party serving Four Loko, and their Blood Alcohol Levels ranged from 0.12 to 0.35.  Also at Ramapo College in New Jersey, 17 students and 6 visitors were hospitalized after partying with Four Loko and the liquor was then banned on campus.  Unfortunately, this October and November there have been tons of similar stories just like this...too much alcohol in a can and students drink too much and can get very ill or die. Honestly, it is just a matter of time before someone dies from this.

It had been banned in the state of Michigan and on numerous college campuses nationwide. Just today the University of Rhode Island has banned the possession of Four Loko and other energy enhanced alcoholic beverages campus-wide.  Under investigations from various Attorneys General and HCP's speaking out about the effects seen in Emergency Rooms nationwide due to this beverage specifically, and others like it, Four Loko may be banned nationally soon.

The fact that it tastes yummy, you don't know you are getting drunk until it is too late to reverse it, and the risk taking behaviors that young adults are taking on these beverages, is a serious health concern.  So, if you do imbibe, just be aware of the effects, and please go slow!  And, you may be out of luck finding it at your local liquor store soon!  Also, parents please talk to your college age kids about the risks of this drink.  It is so much more dangerous than college kids realize, and another scary tidbit is that younger kids are drinking these beverages because they think they taste good and are getting seriously messed up!  Please talk to your kids....and lay off the Loko yourself!!

Yours in Good Health


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