Four Loko is an energy drink that has gained widespread publicity. The drink's claim to fame is not a testament to its advertisers' prowess, however, but rather to its notoriety as a health risk. The beverage is a mixture of alcohol, caffeine, taurine and guarana-a mixture so stimulating that it has come to be known as `blackout in a can'.
The controversy surrounding Four Loko stems largely from its disproportionate popularity among university students. The drink is appealing because it is cheap ($2.50 for a 23.5 ounce can with 12% alcohol), but also because it produces a feeling of being intoxicated while also being alert and awake. Unfortunately, it is this combination of caffeine-a stimulant-and alcohol-a depressant-that is most worrying.
Mixing the two can produce an unrealistic sense of control-being "wired and wasted", as one student put it-which can lead to binge drinking, as well as accidents. A study from the University of Florida showed that consuming alcoholic energy drinks quadruples a person's chances of driving while intoxicated compared to those who only drink alcohol. In addition to this, the combination can also have cardiac effects.
In defense of its popular product, Phusion Projects said that Four Loko contains less alcohol than many other mixes, and less alcohol and caffeine than other alcoholic energy drinks. However, the pre-packaged drinks are highly potent, easy to purchase and consume, and are rarely "consumed responsibly", as the company intends them to be.