CADY Corner - Blackout in a Can
Published: December 9th, 2010
Blackout in a Can
Contributor: Deb Naro
The Associated Press recently reported that there are new concerns about energy drinks produced by a Chicago-based company that combine high levels of caffeine with alcohol. The Food and Drug Administration began investigating these types of beverages a year ago, but a recent party hosted by Washington State College students is renewing questions about their safety.
Earlier in October, nine students from Central Washington University (CWU) ended up in the hospital after getting sick at an off-campus party. Police initially thought they had overdosed on drugs, but now, investigators blame their condition on a drink called, "Four Loko."
Four Loko is made by Chicago-based Phusion Projects and is referred to as "blackout in a can" by some college students. It has an alcohol content of 12 percent, which is comparable to four beers.
The makers of Four Loko said people have been mixing caffeine and alcohol for years. A statement on their website says: "Our products contain less alcohol than an average rum and cola, less alcohol and caffeine than an average Red Bull and vodka, and are comparable to having coffee after a meal with a couple glasses of wine."
Several states are considering outlawing the drinks and at least two universities have banned them from campus while the FDA reviews their safety.
"People consuming these drinks don't understand how much alcohol they are drinking," said CADCA's Chairman and CEO Arthur T. Dean, of the inexpensive drinks. "The drinks present a serious threat to public health and safety, especially for our youth."
All alcoholic energy drinks were banned from CWU's campus Monday, following the president of New Jersey's Ramapo College, who banned the drinks last month after attributing several students' hospitalizations to Four Loko.
Steven Schmidt, a spokesman for the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, told the AP many states feel they need to act quickly to ban the drinks because the drinks are increasing in popularity.
You won't find "Four Loko" sold in New Hampshire grocery or convenience stores, as under current NH law the maximum alcohol content of a flavored alcoholic beverage is 6%. The New Hampshire Liquor Commission must approve the sale of beverages with an alcoholic content of six percent or higher.
But with all the attention about these drinks in the media it is important to educate our youth to the risks associated with them. Alcohol and caffeine energy drinks are a dangerous mix because they increase the risk of alcohol poisoning. Since caffeine may make people feel 'less drunk' than they really are, they tend to drink more than they should. Being able to feel the effects of tiredness, loss of coordination and even passing out or vomiting are the body's defenses against alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning is a serious life threatening condition.
In addition, drinking these beverages may make you feel agitated, have heart palpitations or experience certain heart arrhythmias as they make your heart rate and blood pressure rise. They can trick people into thinking they are alert enough to do things like drive a car, when they really aren't.
Underage drinking can have serious consequences. You can protect your children from the risks associated with drinking by maintaining open communication and expressing a clear, consistent message about alcohol. As we have said many times, it is never too early to start talking with your kids about alcohol use. Your children need information to make good decisions. Don't wait until a problem arises to talk to them about drinking alcohol.
Alcohol advertising does affect underage drinking behavior, and with all the media attention products like Four Loko have been getting, it presents a good opportunity for parents to begin the discussion with kids about alcohol use. Have discussions that focus on the consequences of drinking. Society gives children mixed messages about alcohol. Make sure that your children get a clear message on your disapproval and communicate consequences. Parents, please remember that Silence isn’t Golden—It’s Permission and that you are the best resource and deterrent to substance use. Talk early and often. (Adapted from CADCA Coalitions Online 11.18.10).