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Posted at 3:31 PM ET, 11/16/2010

Drinking one Four Loko is like drinking ...

By Jenna Johnson
Jenna Johnson

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Tuesday that federal regulators plan to rule it is unsafe to add caffeine to alcoholic beverages, "effectively making products such as Four Loko, Joose and others like them, prohibited for sale." (Read more on the Post's health blog, The Checkup.)

loko.jpg As alcoholic energy drinks have dominated college news lately, here's a question that keeps popping up: How do you accurately describe the amount of alcohol and caffeine in a 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko? What can we possibly compare it to?

Here are some of the comparisons floating around right now ...

"Four Loko has roughly the same alcohol content as wine and some craft beers ... A can of Four Loko also has roughly the same amount of caffeine as a tall Starbucks coffee."
-- Four Loko manufacturer, Phusion Projects, in a statement

"Three beers, a can of Red Bull and a large espresso."
-- Inside Higher Ed article

"A cup of coffee with three beers."
-- Yale Daily News article

"Comparable to drinking five or six beers."
-- Howard University public safety alert

"Five standard drinks, and three to four cans of Coke."
-- Catholic University Associate Dean of Students Kathryn M. Jennings

"The equivalence of 4.7 standard drinks in a single can."
-- NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Web site

"One can is equivalent to several beers and several cups of coffee."
-- University of Maryland statement

"If you have one, it's like the perfect pregame in a can. Two of those, with the alcohol content, is like drinking 12 beers."
-- University of Maryland senior civil engineering major quoted in a Diamondback article

"Nearly the equivalent of five beers and four cups of coffee."
-- Elizabethtown College officials quoted in The Patriot-News article

"As much as six beers in one 23.5 ounce can."
-- Harvard Crimson article

"Roughly the equivalent of four 12-ounce beers."
-- Wall Street Journal article

"Four Loko has as much caffeine as two eight-ounce cups of coffee, and has 12 percent alcohol by volume."
-- George Washington Hatchet staff editorial

"They have as much alcohol as three beers, along with a three-cups-of-coffee jolt of caffeine."
-- New York Daily News article

"Popular drinks such as Four Loko and Joose contain as much as 2-3 coffee cups worth of caffeine and 2-3 cans of beer per container."
-- Schumer in a statement

Do you have an alcohol and caffeine equivalence rate for Four Loko? I would love to hear about it in the comments section.

And on Thursday at 1 p.m., a guest chatter (yet to be announced) and I will discuss Four Loko, college binge-drinking and other issues during my weekly online chat, Campus Overload Live. Send in your questions now.

Campus Overload is a daily must-read for all college students. Make sure to bookmark http://washingtonpost.com/campus-overload. You can also follow me on Twitter and fan Campus Overload on Facebook.

By Jenna Johnson  | November 16, 2010; 3:31 PM ET
Categories:  Night Life  | Tags:  Four Loko  
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Next: Four Loko loses its caffeine, guarana and taurine

Comments

The fact that the government even cares about this is ridiculous. The people who supposedly became sick from Four Loko's weren't even 21 and many of them had cocaine, marijuana and other substances in their systems. People drink Red Bull and mix it with 40 proof liquor all of the time. The caffeine and alcohol is not the issue at hand. It is the control, or lack there of, of the individuals abusing the product.

Posted by: Jsuf | November 16, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

This is a dangerous product.

I don't consume alcohol anymore however when I did ? Even as a seasoned alcoholic 8 and 9% micro beers caught up to me at age 42.

I was always careful to compute what I'm getting for my money and this product is as the Harvard Crimson puts it equal to 6 beers is correct.

My alcoholic brain would do the math as "Let's see, that's 2 12 oz cans of 12%, which is really 6 12 oz cans at 4% which is the typical macro beer alcohol content for $2.99 hmmm" That's $3 for a six pack. When I was making better money I'd buy the micro beers, I left off with those 211 Steel Reserves, 8.1% 24 oz for $1.49. If I got 3 ? It was a 12 pack and I'd be yelling at Eli or Alex Remington by the third one ! Okay, Alex left a while ago.

Alcohol is a dangerous chemical and we need to educate people on the hidden addiction aspects of it. I'm not for regulation of any substance because that props up market price - Odd Fox News doesn't apply Greenspan's anti-regulation on markets to illicit drugs as Greenspan does. Alan says it's regulation that causes illicit drugs and the drug black market to thrive.

I agree.

DEA should turn itself into an agency to help users stop using. All you do by enforcing it is guarantee the street price and profits, which brings more gangs and more guns - bigger guns, bigger gangs.

This product Four Loco though is misleading to college students.

Women do not process alcohol the same, they lack a certain enzyme I read.

So for a woman ? one four loco is probably more like a 12 pack.

I used to take it easy when drinking beer, never too fast, I never got to a stumbling state, just a goofy state, and sometimes not so goofy. I distorts emotions. Yet it is a product that can really rob you over time.

I admire David Letterman who said about the same age as me "I woke up one day and realized alcohol was controlling my life in every way". Same with Chris Matthews - he also at this my age just quit cold turkey. I can't believe a thing Bush writes about because I see he's lifted from other peoples books in his attempt to rewrite the past. As if he needs any money.

We need more role models promoting happiness and contentment without promoting use of alcohol.

But this Four Loco product is not advertised as hard liquor but it's 24 proof, that's over 1/2 of Vodka.

Now, how many college students WOULD drink 24 OUNCES of something over 1/2 has potent as Vodka ?

I don't do hard alcohol - last time I tried Absolute was 15 years ago or so. I found myself trying to walk my bike home, at an angle of 45 degrees, until I found myself leaving town heading into the woods frustrated saying "Damn, I'm wasted and I can't find my way home" and I really meant it. Alas I said never again to that.

BUT this Four Loco product could really hit people by surprise.

I don't support banning the product, but I think it's good to educate people on just what it is they are drinking.

Posted by: HRPuffinstuff | November 17, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

In fact, to ADD to the list ?

As a former seasoned alcoholic and mathematics enthusiast !

I once realized drinking a six pack of 11% beer is REALLY, like taking 6 TIMES 11% and calling it ONE bottle at 66%.

So I'd be drinking TWELVE ounces of 132 PROOF alcohol. That's one way to look at it.

Now, about Four Loco, it's easy to compare to hard alcohol, you can also HALVE the volume and double the alcohol percentage as I used to do staring in front of micro brews.

So, 24 ounces at 12% (I know it's just a bit under 24 oz, let's call it 24 for simpler math).

That's 24% at 12 oz.

So, that's TWELVE ounces of some HIGH alcohol content Vodka (Vodka is 20%, or 40 proof typically, not a Vodka drinker).

Or ? When looking for a sobering reality to see how much grain alcohol it would be ?

Let's keep going.

That's 48% at 6 ounces.

98% at 3 ounces.

So, let's say JUST about THREE ounces of PURE Grain alcohol is one of those Four Loco's.

Consumed fast enough ? I bet it could lead to preliminary alcohol poisoning.

That's one of the reasons I liked beer, you can't consume it fast enough to - well- maybe you CAN - but again, I preferred NOT to reach a state where I wasn't able to at LEAST set up the chess board and play a SOMEWHAT DECENT game. But I could see some college environment where people are yelling Chug Chug Chug - probably giving the Four Loco chug a catchy name that somehow made it 'okay'.

If I were President - I'd find a way to fund Universities to discourage people from seeking a 'high' from alcohol. I'd find a way to stygmatize it.

I'd put up Mel Gibson posters everywhere ! Saying THIS is what happens. Maybe put up a button and a tiny unit like in those calling cards for $3 ? You press it ? and it plays Mel's rants when he's drunk.

I don't know, but people CAN be directed away from alcohol. I think the schools do this at a younger age now with all potentially abusive drugs.

It only costs us all collectively if we ignore the dangers of alcohol. It costs lives, it costs money, it costs health care resources, it costs jobs.

I'm NOT saying ANY alcohol consumption is bad.

Quite the contrary I see plenty of evidence that suggests ONE beer or ONE glass of red wine a day is quite healthy and the resveratrol in the wine is a bonus I read. Then again, it's in grape juice too.

Perhaps the message is - Anything in moderation...

And these Four Loco's ARE marketed in such a way- with those catchy logos on the can ? AND the caffeine ? They are NOT a 'moderate' product.

Average person in Russia consumes about 3 fifths of vodka a month.

Hmm -that was a meaningless comment.

Bottom line ?

When it comes to YOUTH ? Any product that encourages EXCESS of alcohol ? Is NOT a good choice for any young adult.

Someone pointed out to me - Hey - Do you want to drink and end up yelling in your back yard ? OR ? Do you want to do something productive with your life.

I chose something productive.

Now to find a JOB !

Posted by: HRPuffinstuff | November 17, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

I was wrong -

Vodka is 40% - that's 80 proof.

So to offer a usable quote for the Four Loco's is like ... list above ?

"One Four loco is also the same as drinking just over 7 fluid ounces of vodka." - Tim Miltz

Also here is another way to put it.

Those airline bottles ? I just looked them up, they are 1.7 ounces.

So, another quote for above could be

"One Four Loco is equivalent to drinking just OVER 4 entire bottles of airline mini bottles of Vodka. " - Tim Miltz.

Or you can just put anonymous.

or Former drinker. I don't know.

Now, imagine some college party- someone goes at some fraternity party or something "Hey, do you want a Four Loco" and they come back with FOUR bottles of Schmirnoff airline sized vodka bottles and they proceed to pour ALL four into a glass.

THAT is ONE Four Loco. It's a dangerous product in my view- not to be banned, but people need to be educated that it's really a considerable amount of alcohol.

For all the alcoholics out there, that still drink ? I'm sure they're saying - Damn, that's a good deal.


Posted by: HRPuffinstuff | November 17, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

I forgot the login here - and found myself whistling HR PuffinStuff

and it hit me - Alcohol is not so unlike HR PuffinStuff

as the song goes:

HR PuffinStuff

Can't get a little and you can't get enough.

IIRC.

Sid and Marty Kroft announced they were smoking weed out the wazoo when they made that show and Land of the Lost and Sigmund the Sea Monster (A childhood favorite).

Had they been drinking Four Loco's ?

I don't think those shows would have ever surfaced.

Amazing what they did on a low budget though.

Posted by: HRPuffinstuff | November 17, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Please, government, ban any product that might be bad for us! Do it for the children! And for the rest of us, who need to be treated like children! Just think of the poor college students! 21 is not old enough to decide to drink something with much less alcohol content than thousands of other alcoholic drinks that are perfectly legal! Help me, government!

Posted by: justin_timberwolf | November 17, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I don't know why anyone is making measurements in ounces. Shots, (jiggers technically) are typically the measure of how much alcohol is in something. So to get an easily understandable measure we need to take it down to shots.

From their product site:
Four Loko comes in 23.5 oz cans
6-12% of those 23.5 oz are alcohol
Therefore alcohol by volume is between 1.41 and 2.82 oz
1 shot(jigger) is 1.5 oz
Now here comes some fancy rounding:
1 can of Four Loko contains between 1 and 2 shots of pure alcohol

For comparison:
Whiskey is 140 proof or 70% alcohol
Therefore 1 shot of whiskey is 1.05 oz alcohol
More rounding:
1 can of Four Loko is 2 to 3 shots of whiskey

In my experience Beer ranges from 3% to 12% alcohol
1 beer is 12 oz
Therefore 1 beer has between .36 oz and 1.44 oz
Rounding again:
or 1/4th to 1 whole shot of pure alcohol
Four Loko then has between 1 and 4 beers on the low end or 2 and 8 on the high end.

Posted by: Bulldeazy | November 17, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Wait, I won't be able to legally mix caffeine with alcohol? You'll be prying my Cuba Libre from my cold, dead hands.

Posted by: LastCommaFirst | November 17, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I remember a quote from the New York Times piece about this last year, "The drinkers of these drinks are more likely to be the victims or perpetrators of sexual aggression, drive with someone who is intoxicated, or just get injured."

As a frequent drinker of the stuff, I can say that that is definitely true. I also think you could say the same thing about tequila ... so I wish they weren't banning it. The idea that these drinks are somehow marketed to clueless and helpless kids who don't know any better is just absurd. We know what we're buying and we love it.

I guess all there is to do now is stockpile it and enjoy it while it lasts.

If it weren't going to be so scarce I'd say poor one out in memory but I guess I'll just have to drink it.

Posted by: ELA5 | November 17, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

College kids get alcohol poisoning, and this is news? Come on.

This is anecdotal evidence, but... I went to college. My classmates and I found all sorts of fun ways to get ourselves very, very, very intoxicated. Joose and Four Loco were not on the menu, yet -- somehow -- we still managed to act like idiots, and hurt ourselves and others. Caffeine not required.

The FDA is wasting money because politicians like to pander. Great.

Posted by: BLT5 | November 17, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Trying a Four Loko after work, since I Heard they are banning it. Drinking it right now, it is the best buzz I have ever felt in my whole life. And I am 25 years old.

Posted by: ryandward | November 17, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Bill of Rights that Americans had an unalienable right to Grape Flavored High Gravity malt liquor. Banning Four Loko is unconstitutional. The recent ban on Four Loko must be unconstitutional. http://freeloko.com

Posted by: AngelaDavis1 | November 18, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

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