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College Students’ Illnesses Due to Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverage

Posted in Alcohol Abuse

Earlier this month, nine students from Central Washington University were hospitalized after being found unconscious at an off-campus party. Initially the students were suspected to have been drugged with Rohypnol (“roofies,” the “date rape drug”), but an investigation confirmed that they were actually drinking “Four Loko,” a caffeinated malt liquor known as “blackout in a can.”

A school statement proclaims that none of the students were drugged or given alcohol without their knowledge, and no sexual assaults occurred. University president James Gaudino wants to ban alcoholic energy drinks from the campus as a result of these findings. He added that students need to be educated about the dangers of these types of alcoholic beverages, and that more should be known about their effects.

Professor Ken Briggs said that the caffeine in the drinks allow an individual to consume more alcohol without becoming tired. However, being able to feel tired or even passing out protects people against drinking alcohol at poisonous levels.

The students, all of whom were under age 21, were found unconscious and “very intoxicated” at a party on October 9th. All of the students had been drinking “Four Loko,” and some mixed the drink with other types of alcohol such as vodka.
Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna is calling for federal food regulators to ban the product, saying that it is marketed to young people by using fruit flavors to hide the taste of the alcohol, and that the high amounts of caffeine make drinkers unaware as to how drunk they really are.

Phusion Projects of Chicago, Illinois, the makers of “Four Loko,” told CNN that they are doing everything they can to make sure their products are consumed safely and responsibly. They added that the University incident underscores why the company makes a great effort to ensure that their products are not sold to underage drinkers and are not abused.

Source: CNN, Alan Duke, “Blackout in a Can Blamed for Student Party Illnesses,” October 26, 2010