Energetic Inebriation

Kelsey Misbrener

Jägerbombs, rum and coke and Red Bull and vodka are all caffeine and alcohol combinations most students have heard of, if not consumed.

The latest combination gaining popularity at Kent State is a brightly colored can with the words “Four Loko” down the side.

Scott Dotterer, coordinator of the office of College Health Behavior, said many students have told him alcohol energy drinks are becoming prominent in the Kent party scene.

Lindsay Sonich, senior marketing major, is a prime example of this. She said she drinks Four Lokos because “it’s cheap and gets the job done.”

Three graduates of The Ohio State University, who launched an alcoholic beverage company called Phusion Projects, LLC, created Four Lokos in 2005. The name “Four Loko” was coined because of the four ingredients in each can: caffeine, guarana, taurine and Earthquake, a non-caffeinated High Gravity Lager, according to the company’s website.

The size and cost alone are tempting.

One Four Loko is 23.5 ounces, costs around $3 and contains 12% alcohol by volume, according to drinkfour.com. One can of Four Loko is the equivalent of three beers, one cup of coffee and one Red Bull energy drink, according to cbsnewyork.com.

“I don’t really drink it that much, but I know it doesn’t take much of it to get drunk,” said Justin Smith, senior air traffic control major.

Senior organizational communication major Heather Westfall said Four Loko was her drink of choice last year on spring break in Panama City.

Other dangerous drinking behaviors

1. “Icing a bro” — handing a friend a Smirnoff Ice and making him chug it on one knee.

2. Keg stands — handstand on a keg while drinking from the tap.

3. Beer bongs — funnel with a tube attached used to swallow one beer in a matter of seconds.

4. Shot gunning a beer — cutting a hole in the can, opening the tab and sucking down a can of beer.

5. 21 shots on your 21st birthday — shooting back no less than 21 shots of your preferred alcohol before midnight.

“We drank them every day,” Westfall said. “We didn’t want to have to bring lots of drinks to the beach. We could just bring one Four Loko and be good for the day.”

Assistant professor of psychology Dan Neal said the combination of caffeine and alcohol is potentially dangerous.

“Caffeine and alcohol have opposite effects,” he said. “People will feel the stimulant effects of caffeine and the depressant of alcohol.”

The Four Loko creator’s company website phusionprojects.com said otherwise: “Alcohol and caffeine have been consumed together safely by adults of legal drinking age for years.”

But mixing energy drinks and alcohol “can potentially mask your level of intoxication,” Dotterer said.

Josh Meeker, junior geology major can attest to this. He said he is “not a heavy drinker,” but 30 minutes after drinking one Four Loko, he felt “kind-of buzzed.”

He said the Four Loko gave him a different kind of intoxication than beer or liquor.

“When I get drunk, I’m usually very friendly and also kind of tired,” Meeker said. “But when I drank a Four Loko, I wasn’t tired at all.”

According to a fact sheet on energy drinks made by Kent State’s Nutrition Outreach program, “No matter how alert you may feel, your blood alcohol concentration is the same as it would be without the energy drink.”

To add another danger into the mix, both energy drinks and alcohol can cause dehydration, according to the Nutrition Outreach fact sheet.

“Getting drunk in itself isn’t that bad,” Neal said. “It’s the risks you take when you’re drunk that are the problem. The addition of caffeine makes people take more risks because they don’t feel drunk.”

Contact Kelsey Misbrener at [email protected].