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Vincent Iannelli, M.D.

Four Loko is in the News Again

By February 21, 2012

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Four Loko - Photo courtesy of the FDAA 13-year-old who was supposed to be playing basketball with friends was instead drinking a Four Loko at an area park in Parkville, Maryland.

The teen got sick and texted his mother to pick him up. On the way home, he felt sick and opened the car door while they were making a turn. He fell out and was hit by another car. He died at an area hospital.

Four Loko was originally marketed as a high-alcohol energy drink, with each 23.5 ounce can having as much alcohol as 4 to 5 regular 12-ounce beers. The addition of caffeine would mask the signs and symptoms of being intoxicated, which could make kids drink even more, sometimes to the point of alcohol poisoning, as they were "drunk while still awake."

Fortunately, caffeinated alcoholic beverages were banned by the FDA last year. High-alcohol drinks like Four Loko didn't exactly go away though - they just removed the caffeine. They still contain a lot of alcohol (12% vs about 5% alcohol in the average beer), come in popular fruit flavors (watermelon, lemonade, fruit punch, and blue raspberry, etc), and are sold in over-sized, single serve, non-resealable containers, all factors which could likely continue to make them popular with underage drinkers.

The FTC is now working with the makers of these drinks to come up with changes that will hopefully make them less appealing to kids. Of course, it is even more important to be aware that these drinks are available and educate your kids about the dangers of drinking them.

These types of drinks have always been around in one form or another though. The real problem is that rates of underage drinking are just way too high, with 42% of high school students saying they have drank alcohol and 24% saying they are binge drinkers. So don't just talk to your kids about Four Loko, or other types of alcopops, flavored alcohol drinks. Help stop all underage drinking.

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FDA - Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages
CDC - Underage Drinking
Tips for Reducing Underage Binge Drinking
Drug Testing and Drug Screening

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