Both states and colleges are trying to ban the energizing malt liquor.
College students across the country are buying and consuming alcoholic energy drinks Four Loko in record numbers, and officials are taking notice and action.
Sometimes referred to as “blackout in a can,” Four Loko was introduced in August 2008 and is sold in luminously-colored 23.5 ounce cans, which resemble cans of its half-siblings, energy drinks.
Offered in eight fruit flavors, the beverage is comprised of 6 percent to 12 percent alcohol, depending on state regulations, and is loaded with caffeine and sugar. The malt liquor beverage also contains taurine and guarana.
Dr. Robert McNamara, the chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine, explained the health concerns that surround beverages that mix alcohol and caffeine.
“The danger of mixing a stimulant like caffeine with alcohol is that one may feel less intoxicated and mistakenly believe they can handle extra alcohol,” McNamara said. “It is also very important to know the exact amount of alcohol one is consuming in order to be safe.”
“These drinks have a very high alcohol content, and one may not realize just how much they are consuming,” McNamara added.
On Friday, St. Joseph’s University confirmed that a handful of its students – the university did not release a specific number – were hospitalized after consuming Four Loko, according to a report by the Philadelphia Daily News.
“We started seeing Four Loko come up as something that people had been drinking that got them to the point where they needed hospitalization,” Cary Anderson, St. Joe’s vice president of the Office of Student Life, told the Daily News.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is reportedly attempting to ban this beverage due to its hazardous health effects and the growing number of college students consuming it, and it has already encouraged distributors to stop selling it.
Pennsylvania isn’t the first state to take action against the drink. Liquor control boards in Michigan and Washington have passed laws banning alcoholic energy drinks, Four Loko included.
In other states, such as New Jersey, where no such laws have been passed, colleges are stepping up. Ramapo College, where a number of students where hospitalized in September after drinking the beverage, banned Four Loko, and senators from the state recently urged other colleges to do the same.
While states and colleges are improvising to stop the consumption of the drinks, the Federal Drug Administration is currently studying the effects of the notorious beverages and whether they should be taken off shelves.
“Four Loko probably should be banned because they are very easy for high school kids to get a hold of,” said Kimberly McKenna, a junior elementary education major. “They are also very convenient for poor college students.”
On Oct. 20, ABC News reported that one 19-year-old man was admitted to Temple Hospital after he suffered a heart attack from drinking Four Loko. McNamara told ABC the patient’s symptoms resembled an overdose of cocaine or speed and were “extremely unusual” for a young person.
As the shelf-life for these drinks in Pennsylvania remains uncertain, Vice President of Student Affairs Theresa Powell urged the student body to be wary of the harmful effects of Four Loko via an e-mail sent to the student body.
“We encourage students to refrain from consuming these beverages,” Powell said, “and remind everyone of the services available to help students struggling with substance use and abuse.”
Maura Lieberman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.