Campuses Confront Dangerous New Alcoholic Beverage

by Nathan Harden

Unexpectedly, two of my recent posts on college drinking turned out to be connected.

Two weeks ago, I related an incident involving students at Central Washington State University. After a large number of students, most of them female, passed out at a party, authorities suspected foul play. They said it was likely that someone had spiked drinks at the party with flunitrazepam, commonly referred to as the “date rape” drug.

A week later, I posted a story about a new highly caffeinated alcoholic drink called “Four Loko,” which administrators at Ramapo College in New Jersey considered banning when more than twenty students were hospitalized within a few weeks after consuming the beverage.

Now, we have learned that the Central Washington students were not drugged at all. In fact, all of those students had passed out for one simple reason: Four Loko. They too had been drinking this caffeinated canned cocktail, which comes in a 23.5 ounce can and is equal to drinking three beers, a can of Red Bull, and a shot of espresso. Students at the Central Washington party had blood-alcohol content ranging from .12 to .35. (A BAC higher than .3 can be fatal.) 

“Four Loko” has been linked to an alarming number of student hospitalizations in recent weeks.
College administrators are trying to figure out how to protect irresponsible students from harming themselves with this beverage, often refered to as “blackout in a can” or “liquid crack.” And Washington attorney general Rob McKenna is asking the FDA to ban the stuff:

“It’s time to bring an end to the sale of alcoholic energy drinks,” McKenna said. “They’re marketed to kids by using fruit flavors that mask the taste of alcohol, and they have such high levels of stimulants that people have no idea how inebriated they really are.”

I’m curious about what readers think: Should Four Loko be allowed to remain on the market, even if an unusually high number of students seem to be endangering themselves by drinking it? Or should the government step in and ban the stuff?

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