Four Loko Craze

Four Loko mixes unexpected flavors and causes higher-than-expected intoxication

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Four Loko has been banned by the Food and Drug Administration because it was thought that the mix of caffeine and alcohol was causing a rise in alcohol-related hospitalizations. This may not be the case.

Researchers from McMaster University believe Four Loko is more intoxicating because consumers aren’t familiar with –or expecting- the flavor combinations.

"Four Loko’s unique combination of fruit flavors and alcohol can cause greater intoxication."

Shepard Siegel from McMaster University explains the idea of “situational specificity of tolerance”, which implies that the effect of alcohol depends on the different circumstances in which it’s consumed.

Siegel suggests that our body prepares itself to consume alcohol just like our body prepares itself to eat. Four Loko combines unique flavors that our bodies are unable to prepare for, so the effect of the alcohol is intensified. Flavor combinations also have an impact.

To prove his theory, Siegel conducted an experiment which included participants who were divided into two separate groups. One group received alcohol in a familiar setting like having beer in a bar, while the second group was given the same amount of alcohol in an unfamiliar context such as having a mixed drink (sweetened carbonated water and alcohol) in an office.

The experiment showed participants who were in the second group became more intoxicated than the first group, even though the same amount of alcohol has been consumed.

Siegel warns that the combination of fruit flavors and alcohol can cause greater intoxication because we haven’t associated them yet.

Four Loko announced the launch of Four Loko XXX Limited Edition, which will introduce a different flavor every four months. The flavor changes, in combination with the alcohol, may cause increased intoxication.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 24, 2011
Last Updated:
October 18, 2012