Unfortunately some teens do experiment with drugs and alcohol during their adolescence.  Instead of denying the fact that teens experiment with drugs and alcohol, it is important to become educated in regards to these current trends.

Today we begin a three part blog series in which I will discuss trends in drug and alcohol, use prevalent among the teen population.  I will also provide advice and discussion points to use when discussing these serious issues with teens.

What is Four Loko?

Four Loko is an alcoholic energy drink, named after its four main ingredients (taurine, guarana, alcohol, and caffeine).  Produced by Phusion Projects, the beverage is sold in 23.5 oz. aluminum cans and contains 12% alcohol.  Four Loko, also known as liquid crack, is sold in liquor stores and convenience stores that sell alcohol and is commonly found next to energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster.

Clerks do not always realize that the beverage contains alcohol, making it easier for underage kids to purchase.

Why are teens attracted to Four Loko?

Four Loko looks and tastes like an energy drink.  Drinking one can of Four Loko has the same effects as drinking four bottles of beer, consuming the sugar found in one king sized Kit Kat chocolate bar, and drinking three 8 oz. cups of caffeinated coffee.  Cheaply sold for around $2.50 a can, vendors say that sales of Four Loko are on the rise and that the drink is very popular among the late night college crowd.

What are the dangers?

The alcoholic content in Four Loko can impair an individual’s senses, while the caffeine and sugar can over-stimulate the person.  In a study conducted by Dennis Thombe et. al. (2010), the researchers found that individuals who were over stimulated and intoxicated tended to feel alert, but not drunk, and were four times more likely to drive while intoxicated when compared to individuals who drank just alcohol.

It is possible that users feel ‘more in control’ due to the fact that caffeine can decrease the perception of feeling drunk as opposed to the actual impairment incurred from drinking alcohol.

Is there any action being taken against Four Loko?

According to the Huffington Post, the Washington state liquor control board is banning the sale of Four Loko and other beverages that combine beer, liquor, or malt beverages with caffeine, taurine, guarana, or other ingredients found in energy drinks.  The ban came into effect after nine under-aged  college students from Central Washington University were hospitalized after consuming Four Loko at an off campus party.  Other states are looking into implementing similar bans.

References Cited:

Dininny, S. (2010, November 10). Washington State Bans Four Loko. Huffington Post.  Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/11/washington-four-loko_n_782031.html.

Thombs, D., O’Mara, R., Tsukamoto, M., Rossheim, M., Weiler, R., Merves, M., et al. (2010). Event-level analyses of energy drink consumption and alcohol intoxication in bar patrons. Addictive Behaviors, 35(4), 325-330.

Copyright Ann L. Naragon, Ph.D. 2010