"Four Loko" Causes Concern

October 27, 2010 Updated Oct 27, 2010 at 7:43 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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October 27, 2010 Updated Oct 27, 2010 at 7:43 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW) It's called Four Loko. It's street nickname is "liquid cocaine." It is a super powerful energy drink, mixed with a large dose of alcohol. It's the strongest drink on the market, and has become hugely popular with college students for its ability to get you drunk fast and cheap. But experts warn the contents of these multicolored cans can be very dangerous.

You can find them in gas stations and convenience stores, with its bright label shining through the cooler door. But this twenty-three and a half ounce can of energy drink contains twelve percent alcohol. Basically, one can of Four Loko is equivalent to five cans of beer, five glasses of wine, or five shots of hard liquor. The caffeine from the drink is the same as in five cups of coffee.

Sally Yageric works with the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse. "They really are very dangerous drinks and people think they're nothing because you can buy them off the grocery shelf," she said.

Four Loko has exploded onto college campuses due the their low price and high alcohol content. Many college students said they get people drunk very quickly, sometimes with negative effects, but overall they are cheap and easy party drinks.

"Four Loko alone could conceivably put you in the hospital. Especially for college students, particularly girls who have low body mass," said Dr. Kathleen Miller, a research scientist at the University of Buffalo, who specializes in addiction and has studied energy drinks.

The mixture of caffeine as a stimulant and alcohol as a depressant, both in large amounts, can cause serious harm.

Yageric said drinking Four Loko is like stomping on the gas pedal while slamming on the brakes. "In essence, what you're doing is putting your body on a roller coaster. It is much more dangerous than the straight energy drink," she said.

Dr. Miller added that Loko makes you "think you're less drunk than you are. That means you don't know when to cut yourself off, you're friends don't know when to cut you off, your bartender doesn't know when to cut you off. Even one or two of these could have a negative health impact."

There have been multiple reports from other states of students being hospitalized after parties where there was Four Loko present. The drink has been banned from several colleges, and the idea of outlawing them has come up locally. Both experts that spoke to Eyewitness News agreed with banning Four Loko at colleges, but students said they'll simply find another way to get drunk.