Alcohol + Caffeine does not equal a good time

December 7, 2010

Alcohol + Caffeine does not equal a good time

On Thanksgiving I had my brother-in-law bring up the alcohol and caffeine drink that is all over the news: Four Loko.  Apparently he got a can given to him by a co-worker of his.  To my surprise he was afraid to drink it.  This was partly due to the combination of the stimulant caffeine, and a depressant alcohol.  He also mentioned that it cost only $2.50 for a 24 oz. can, the alcohol was probably one step up from rubbing alcohol.

My take on this combination is simple: these two ingredients are a bad combination.  First of all caffeine is a stimulant that has been linked to high blood pressure, tachycardia (fast heart rate), urinary frequency and of course sleep issues.  Now combine that with alcohol, which depresses reaction times, is an intoxicant, raises blood pressure amongst a slew of other things and can be the cause of many a stupid stunt.  Many people would think, “hey, these will cancel each other out and thus party harty.”  Not true.  The two actually can impair you more than either alone.

In the above-named drink, the caffeine content is about 260mg, coffee about 100mg, and a Red Bull around 80mg.  The same above-named drink also has 12% alcohol by volume.  That’s equal to a bottle of wine.  Now imagine drinking down an entire bottle of wine followed by and espresso or two.  You will have a spike in your blood pressure, racing heart and a lack of coordination.  Good luck sleeping that one off especially if you had to “break your seal.”

Many people drink combinations of alcohol and caffeine, often as Red Bull and vodka as the infamous jagerbomb (jagermeister and Red Bull).  But these mixed drinks at least have both a lower caffeine level as well as alcohol content.  However I still don’t get the jagerbomb thing.  I mean separately they both have a nasty taste, I can’t imagine them mixed together.

The FDA has sent a warning letter to the makers of the pre-packaged combos to stop mixing the two together.  Some states have outright banned them.  I think that people who drink this concoction are in for a rude awakening.  The caffeine will pep them up only so long before they know it they end up legally intoxicated and dangerously impaired.  If you want to have a night out, stick to a few drinks and save the coffee for the potential rough morning ahead.

  1. kelli

    Well the total volume is 24 ounces. Simple math you could easily just half both ingredients and a red bull would then be equal to 1/2 of a loko drink. If you compare the two separate products to 1 can equally, that can would have to be 49 ounces, just saying :)

  2. Jason

    You say "the caffeine content is about 260mg, coffee about 100mg, and a Red Bull around 80mg." 80mg is the amount of caffeine in an 8.3 ounce can. So with simple math, a 24 ounce can of Red Bull would seem to be right on par with Four Loko. Also, you say "The same above-named drink also has 12% alcohol by volume. That’s equal to a bottle of wine. Now imagine drinking down an entire bottle of wine..." I'm almost certain that the 24 ounce cans are not 750ml, so why would anyone need to imagine drinking a bottle of wine? And finally, “One can of four loko has as much alcohol as a 6 pack of beer”, what beer has 3% alcohol? I have seen this very odd math on the news and in the paper, just curious as to if you know why everyone seems to use horrible math to make their case. On a personal note, Jager, Red Bull, and Jagerbombs taste great. And, for the record, I have never had a Four Loko.

  3. Jen

    Do you know if it is common for pre-packaged alcohol & caffeine drinks to have such high levels of caffeine and high alcohol content - or is Four Loko simply worse than the rest? I guess I just don't remember there being such an outcry when Sparks, which claims to be the first energy beer, came out. In fact, I think it's still on sale whereas I just read Four Loko is being pulled nationwide.

  4. Ryan Isherwood MD

    At this time the FDA is reviewing many of these prepackaged alcohol and caffeine combination drinks. Four Loko has been targeted due to its high alcohol and caffeine content. One can of four loko has as much alcohol as a 6 pack of beer not to mention the caffeine content of 2-3 cups of coffee. I wouldn't be suprised if all of these drinks will soon be unavailable on the market.

  5. Ryan Isherwood MD

    First off I have never seen a 24 oz can of Red Bull, do they exist? When people mix drinks with Red Bull they tend to only mix with the 8.3 oz can, so yes those drinks have less caffeine than Four Loko, so my math was correct on that. Now on to the alcohol content issue, I am toaking total percentage here. A bottle of wine, 750 ml has the same alcohol by volume as Four Loko, both about 12%, but the Four Loko is in 24 oz. Both are 12% alcohol by volume, so either way you are drinking 12% alcohol. In truth Four Loko has about as much alcohol as just over 5 cans of beer, the 6 pack reference was just for demonstration purposes. Never the less the Nebraska Alcohol commission has now banned any prepackaged alcohol and caffeine combo and they are being pulled off the market. You and I will have to agree to disagree on the taste of Jager.

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