Health Services warns of dangers of alcohol-infused energy drinks

By Melissa Nicholson
On November 8, 2010

Recently there have been reports of nine students in Seattle and twenty three students in New Jersey being sent to the hospitals after a night of drinking an alcohol-infused energy drinks called "Four Loko".   The 23.5 ounce can of "blackout" or "Four," as it is referred to, contains four main ingredients, caffeine, taurine, guarana, and 12% alcohol by volume.  Many have estimated that the malt liquor beverage contains the equivalent of one red bull (80 mgs) and possibly as many as two additional shot of espresso (150 mgs). The total alcohol content of one 23.5 ounce can of "Four" is equivalent to approximately 3-4 beers.   

Under current law in New Hampshire, the maximum alcohol content of a flavored alcoholic beverage sold in a grocery or convenience store is 6% so you won't find "Four Loko" around Durham, New Hampshire or even Maine. With all the media attention about Four Loko in the news, it is UNH's hope to educate students to make healthy, low risk decisions around alcohol consumption.  Strongly consider saying no to "Vodka Bulls," Red Bombs,""Jager Bombs," and products like Four Loko and here is why:

Alcohol and caffeine energy drinks is a dangerous mix because they:

-increase the risk of alcohol poisoning. Since caffeine makes people feel "less drunk" than they really are, they tend to drink more than they should.

-make your heart rate and blood pressure rise. You may feel agitated, have heart palpitations or experience certain heart arrhythmias while drinking these beverages.  

-can trick people into thinking they alert enough to do things like drive a car, when they really aren't.

-are both diuretics which deplete the body of fluids and cause dehydration (and really bad hangovers).

-in combination they can make drinking all the more addictive.

Being able to feel the effects of tiredness, loss of coordination and even passing out or vomiting are the body's defenses against alcohol poisoning. If you or your friends experience these sign or symptoms step up and call 911. Alcohol poisoning is a serious life threatening condition.  

Low Risk Strategies

Remember that you don't have to drink; the choice is up to you. If you do choose to drink:

A standard drink typically equals a 12 ounce beer, a 5 ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5 ounce of liquor whether people have it in a mixed drink or a shot.

Know what and how much you are drinking. Low risk guidelines suggest no more than 0-4 drinks for women over four hours and no more than 0-5 drinks for men over four hours.

Pace yourself to one drink per hour and count your drinks.

Have a full meal before going out for the evening and snack throughout the night to slow the absorption of alcohol in your body.

Alternating your drinks with nonalcoholic beverages (not caffeinated energy drinks!).

Lastly, arrive with friends and ALWAYS leave with friends.

Melissa Nicholson is a Alcohol, Tabacco, and Other Drug Educator/Counselor with UNH Health Services.


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