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Watch Your Mouth: Four Loko and the Search for a Safe Caffeinated Booze Four Loko and the Search for a Safe Caffeinated Booze

What coca-infused wine and a hyper-charged drinking culture can tell us about today's booze-with-a buzz craze.


Last fall, emergency personnel found a New York teenager lying on the subway tracks. Other kids had been discovered passed out at school, asleep in a building lobby, and splayed out in a dark public park. Each of them turned up in Bellevue Hospital Center’s pediatric emergency room with one thing in common: They had reportedly downed Four Loko, a 23.5-ounce concoction that originally contained as much caffeine as a cup of coffee and about as much alcohol as four regular beers.

Caffeine and alcohol are two of the world's most popular legal drugs, and in theory, their effects pair nicely. Following last year's youth health scare, Food and Drug Administration commissioner Margaret Hamburg declared caffeine an illegal additive in alcoholic drinks, stating that the active ingredients in Four Loko produced "a state of wide-awake drunk."

Precisely. That effect was so popular that fans rushed to stock up on the stuff before it was cleared from the shelves. So how do we get a wide-awake drunk feeling without winding up zombie-eyed on a subway platform?

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