Wrapped in a camouflage label, the jumbo can of alcohol, caffeine, taurine and guarana called Four Loko has become hard to miss across national college campuses. It’s cheap to buy and packs a punch of intoxication in a can. Is it no wonder that regulations need to be made?
Known among its consumers as a “blackout in a can,” Four Loko measures 23.5 ounces, 12% alcohol, 660 calories and the caffeine equivalent of two cups of coffee. But its youthful appeal and rampant use may endanger more than just the person who drinks it.
“We’ve been hearing about it for a while,” says Dr. Maria Serra, associate director for psychological services at Rutgers University-Camden Student Health Services. “It’s only been more of a problem in the last few months. It’s very clear students know it’s there. And, more than anything, they love that it is cheap.”
Serra isn’t surprised college students are inclined to take a drink that sells at $2.50 and is comparable to drinking five or six light beers.
“What Four Loko does, with the combination of caffeine and alcohol, is you have someone who is very drunk but also very alert and very awake,” she says.
Mixing a stimulant like caffeine with a depressant like alcohol can be a deadly combination.
People who combine the two may mistakenly believe they are more in control, as caffeine can diminish only the perception of being drunk, not the actual impairment. This sober feeling can also lead to binge drinking.
Recent episodes have illustrated Four Loko’s possible dangers. In the past month, Four Loko allegedly sent 23 Ramapo College of New Jersey students to the hospital, as well as nine students from Central Washington University in Washington, prompting both colleges to ban the elixir.
The state of Michigan has banned the sale of caffeinated alcoholic drinks, and the city of Chicago has proposed doing the same.
But Serra says the bans likely won’t stop college students from indulging in such caffeinated-combination bar staples as Red Bull and vodka and Coke and rum.
“Young people have actually been making Four Loko before Four Loko was around,” Serra says.
The federal Food and Drug Administration is examining the safety of combining caffeine and alcohol and, as part of its investigation, is examining about 40 different caffeinated alcoholic products, including Four Loko.
For anyone who needs local help for depression here in Palm Beach, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is located in Lake Worth, Florida. Their local # (561) 588-3477. They can also help you with any questions or referrals you may need.
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