Some Four Loko fans say they like the "caffeinated malt beverage" because it gives them a paradoxical alert-but-relaxed feeling. But experts say it can be risky to combine alcohol and caffeine, whether you're mixing Red Bull with booze or buying a ready-made two-in-one cocktail like Four Loko or Joose.
But the party may be over for the makers of Four Loko. Attorneys general in Connecticut, New York, California, and other states are investigating the potential health risks of the drink, along with the marketing practices used to sell it, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The fact that mixing alcohol with caffeine can be dangerous is not news to medical researchers or college students.
A Wake Forest University study published last year found that college students who combine alcohol and caffeine are more likely to suffer alcohol-related injuries than students who drink only alcohol.
And student health services are well aware of the potential dangers. Columbia University's student health service website, goaskalice.com says caffeine's stimulating effect can make people less aware of the effects of alcohol. That can cause them to take risks that that they otherwise might not take.
In addition, both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, so mixing them can cause dehydration. A dehydrated body is slow to process alcohol, and that can interfere with "coordination, balance and ability to regulate body temperature," according to the site.
And now community organizers and politicians as well as medical experts are speaking out about Four Loko. The Delaware County Daily Times last week reported that Rev. William Rocky Brown III, a candidate for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, said that the new drink "is having our young people black out." Nafis Nichols of Philadelphia's Chester Youth Collaborative called it "legalized liquid cocaine."