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Concerns Grow Over Dangers of Caffeinated Alcohol Drinks
Date:10/28/2010

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- The debate over the dangers of alcoholic energy drinks, popular among the young because they are inexpensive and carry the added punch of caffeine, has intensified after students at colleges in New Jersey and Washington state became so intoxicated they wound up in the hospital.

Sold under catchy names, these fruit-flavored beverages come in oversized containers reminiscent of nonalcoholic sports drinks and sodas, and critics warn that this is no accident. The drinks, they noted, are being marketed to young drinkers as a safe and affordable way to drink to excess.

One brand, a fruit-flavored malt beverage sold under the name Four Loko, has caused special concern since it was consumed by college students in New Jersey and Washington state before they ended up in the ER, some with high levels of alcohol poisoning.

"The soft drink or energy drink imagery of these drinks is just dangerous window dressing," contends Dr. Eric A. Weiss, an emergency medicine expert at Stanford University's School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif. "It hides the fact that you're consuming significant amounts of alcohol. And that is potentially hazardous, because it's not only harmful to one's health, but impairs a person's coordination and judgment."

In fact, these caffeinated alcoholic beverages can contain anywhere from 6 percent to 12 percent alcohol. That is the equivalent of roughly two to four beers, respectively.

"And what I worry about as a trauma physician is that someone will drink one can of this stuff and not realize how much alcohol they've consumed," noted Weiss. "Whereas, if they had four beers they would presumably be more mindful of the amount of alcohol they had consumed and not go and get behind the wheel of a car, for example."

And anyone who thinks that the caffeine found in such drinks can protect them from the negative effects of
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