Black Out In a Can

In November, students were appalled when their beloved “black out in a can,” AKA Four Loko, announced that they would be removing the caffeine from their beverages.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had sent out a warning letter to four manufacturers of alcoholic caffeinated beverages stating that these drinks were unsafe and subject to seizure. 

What’s the big deal?  What’s so dangerous about mixing alcohol and energy drinks?

Combining alcohol and caffeine creates a “wide-awake drunk” – because of the stimulating effect of the caffeine, you don’t feel the fatigue that you normally do with alcohol consumption alone.  In other words, you don’t feel as drunk as you really are.  So you end up knocking a few more back than you might otherwise and keeping the party going way longer than it should. 

The problem is that your blood alcohol level goes up the same whether your drinks contains caffeine or not; all you’re doing is adding the nasty risks of caffeine intoxication to the already dangerous risks of alcohol intoxication – horrible hangover, insomnia, vomiting, palpitations, dehydration, elevated blood pressure and even cardiovascular failure (otherwise known as death).  Scary stuff.

On top of that, a 2008 study of college students showed that mixing alcohol and energy drinks led to a higher prevalence of being taken advantage of (or taking advantage of someone) sexually, getting into a car with a drunk driver and suffering injuries that require medical treatment. 

If you and your friends are still looking to get a little “loko” this weekend, here are some tips to follow that will hopefully keep you a little safer.    

  • Split the drink with a friend
  • Dilute your drink with soda, juice, or lots of ice
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach
  • Drink lots of water throughout the night

Alexandra Hinkley
Senior, School of Allied Medical Professions
The Ohio State University

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University