Remember the Good Old Days, when young men and women seeking higher education kicked back and relaxed with a beer or two? Perhaps a ping-pong ball would be tossed, Grand-Prize-Game-style into a delta of red cups. Someone might have even cracked the cap on a pint of Jack. Maybe folks even passed the peace pipe. And mostly, no one went to the hospital.
Those days seem to be fading fast as college kids around the country are sending themselves to the emergency room after bingeing on the newest craze on campus: Caffeinated alcoholic beverages.
The main culprit seems to be Four Loko, a line of fruit-flavored malt beverages with an ABV of 12% and lots of caffeine that comes in 23.5 ounce cans. Doing some quick math, I figure that each can holds about as much alcohol as a six-pack of Keystone Light. That’s a lot of kick in one can, and at $2.50 a can, it’s a lot of buzz for your buck.
Four Loko is currently the fourth best-selling alcoholic beverage at 7-Eleven stores and is quickly gaining a reputation for putting younger drinkers in peril.
The issue seems to be the caffeine, which energizes the drinker and delays the feeling of inebriation. I imagine the fruit flavor makes it easy to down these puppies rather quickly as well. Put these two things together and it’s a recipe for disaster, as you can be a couple of cans in before you realize you’ve gone too far.
Earlier this month, Four Loko sent nine Central Washington University students to the hospital with alcohol poisoning. They all had blood alcohol levels from 0.12 percent to 0.35 percent. My alma mater, Ramapo College in Northern New Jersey also has had its share of issues with Four Loko, as 23 people have been hospitalized since the start of the Fall semester after messing with Four Loko. That’s a lot of dizzy folks for a school of 6,000. Ramapo has since banned Four Loko from campus, even for students of legal drinking age.
Don and I don’t condone underage drinking, but that doesn’t stop it from happening all over the place all the time. At least when I was underage and experimenting with alcohol (basically learning to drink) I stuck mostly to beer, which offers a pretty wide margin of error. This stuff doesn’t – by the time you think there might be a problem, it’s way too late. No “have a cheeseburger and gravy fries” solution here, it’s just a stomach pump and a lot of explaining to do.
The US Food and Drug Administration is looking into the safety of caffeinated alcoholic beverages. Meanwhile the “data” continue to stream into emergency rooms in college towns across America.
I hope this poison gets pulled off the market quickly and college kids can get back to killing their brain cells the old-fashioned way – one kegstand at a time.