You Can Regulate the Product, but You Can’t Regulate the Stupidity Out of the Individual


AP Photo/Sakuma


It’s official: they’ve been warned. And now it’s prompted a buying binge.

The discussion surrounding Four Loko and products like it has created something of a hyperbole of the product’s potency. A can of Four Loko comparatively only is 1 cup of coffee (135mg caffeine) + 2 beers, or 1 Steel Reserve (since it’s 12% alcohol by volume). (Note: 12 oz. beer = 5oz glass of wine = 1.5oz shot of liquor in terms of alcohol by volume)

Four Loko comes in a 23.5oz can. So it’s already, by liquid volume, two 12oz beers. It’s like buying those really big cans or bottles of beer–that still counts as two beers. So one can of Four Loko really is two drinks, making it technically: 1/2 cup coffee + 1 beer per drink.

When I say one beer, I mean one non-light (4%), non-3.2% beer, so by that standard, a 12oz. beer is 5-6% alcohol by volume. A Four Loko is still only 3.75 drinks of the 3.2% beer, despite what news outlets are incorrectly circulating.

Let’s not forget these puppies also probably have a crap-ton of sugar, so of course you’re going to get sick off of 4–that’s like having 4 cups of coffee with sugar & cream along with 8 beers. That doesn’t even sound good.

Comparatively, here’s Red Bull-vodka, Sparks, and Irish coffee:

Red Bull-vodka: 0.75 cup of coffee + 1 beer
Sparks (blue and orange cans, pre-reformulation):  1.5 cup of coffee + 1 beer
Irish coffee: 1 cup of coffee + 1 beer

Also, here’s an article (there are many out there now) referencing the dangers of Four Loko:

Four Loko, the top-selling caffeinated alcoholic drink, has been blamed for several deaths over the last several months, a period during which the brand’s availability spread to all but three states. In August, an 18-year-old in Palm Coast, Fla., died after drinking Four Loko in combination with diet pills. The following month, a 20-year-old in Tallahassee, Fla., started playing with a gun and fatally shot himself after drinking several cans of Four Loko over a number of hours.

Odd. Let’s play fill in the blank, and write in “pain medication” or “sleeping pills” wherever Four Loko is mentioned.

“There’s a particular interaction that goes on in the brain when they are consumed simultaneously,” [Dr. Mary Claire O’Brien] said. “The addition of the caffeine impairs the ability of the drinker to tell when they’re drunk. What is the level at which it becomes dangerous? We don’t know that, and until we can figure it out, the answer is that no level is safe.

No level is safe? Well then, I wish I could tell TSA that when they want me to go through the body scanner and expose me to “low-level radiation.” The point remains, government has no business banning these products. People will still be stupid. The best you can do is inform people so that information is reflected in their decision-making.

For more effects of alcohol and caffeine on the brain, Lifehacker has some great explanations behind the science: go here and here.

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