Beverage manufacturers might market their neon, caffeinated alcohol drinks as containing exotic-sounding ingredients such as taurine, guarana, ginkgo, bitter orange and ginseng, but nutritionists and pharmacology experts often differ. Apart from caffeine and alcohol, rest is "silly window dressing," said David Schardt, a senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Recently, these energy drinks became controversial after two colleges banned Four Loko, a caffeinated alcohol beverage, after students became ill. The name "Four" is derived from the major ingredients: caffeine, taurine, guarana and alcohol, according to Phusion Projects, Four Loko's maker.They fuse sugar-fructose mix, caffeine, alcohol with a blend of supplements.

Dr. David Weldy, assistant professor of family medicine at the University Of Toledo College Of Medicine noted that a lot of these drinks have proprietary substances, the ratios of which are often unknown. Some of the items include taurine, guarana and certainly caffeine. Amount of herbal supplements in such drinks is too small and has very minimal or no effect.

Taurine, one of the major ingredients in Red Bull is a seemingly omnipresent natural amino acid known to be largely found in skeletal muscles. It is one of many building blocks involved in physiological functions in the liver, brain, central nervous system and heart. It has lots of different effects.

Though it is touted to improve performance, there isn't much scientific evidence of that. Despite such lack of research, it has been used in treating alcohol withdrawal, congestive heart failure, diabetes and other conditions.

Guarana is a South American berry that is a natural source of caffeine. In fact, its seeds contain more than twice the amount of caffeine found in coffee. It is recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a generally safe food additive.

Definitely young adults aren't drinking these types of energy drinks for health benefits or herbal supplements. It’s purely for the caffeine and alcohol in it. The stimulant and depressant don't cancel each other, but have a different effect.

"Caffeine seems to partially cancel out the feeling of being drunk, not the actual impairment," said Weldy, who has written about underage drinkers and caffeinated alcoholic products.

Four Loko's maker issued statement after the Washington college incident: "No one is more upset than we are when our products are abused or consumed illegally by underage drinkers -- and it appears that both happened in this instance. This is unacceptable,"

Phusion Projects agreed with "the goals that underlie those sentiments" in Central Washington College's ban. The company abides by "strict standards for our retailers and conduct ongoing training to ensure our products are sold only to adults 21 and older," they said.

Clauson noted that the combination of caffeine and alcohol -- which is found in drinks like rum and Coke, Red Bull and vodka, allows drinkers to imbibe for a longer period of time without quickly feeling the headaches, dry mouth and unpleasant side effects of alcohol.

Researchers noted that such drinkers are more likely to binge, drive drunk, or be taken advantage of in a sexual situations than those who drink noncaffeinated alcoholic drinks, medical experts said.

There have been cases of such cases of ban in the past as well.

In 2007, Anheuser-Busch pulled its 12-per cent alcohol beverage called Spykes (a neon amalgam inside a bottle that looked like nail polish) after an outcry by alcohol watchdog organizations and politicians.

In 2008, Center for Science in the Public Interest sued MillerCoors Brewing Company over its alcoholic energy drink, Sparks. The group accused the company of trying to appeal to underage drinkers with a drink that was alcoholic, but similar to soda. The company agreed to reformulate its ingredients.