According to The Money Times, a popular drink known as Four Loko is responsible for putting nine Central Washington University students in the hospital after consuming the beverage at a party. But what is Four Loko, and why is drinking just one can of it so dangerous?
Four Loko has become known as “liquid cocaine” or “blackout in a can” thanks to its combination of effects (basically inebriating the drinker while also amping them up). With the equivalent of a six pack of beer and five cups of coffee in each 23-ounce can, drinking just one of the fruit-flavored concoctions could be enough to land someone in the hospital.
In fact, 17 students and six visitors at Ramapo College in New Jersey recently received medical attention for drinking the beverage. One of the students had five times the legal limit of blood alcohol content in New Jersey after consuming just three cans of Four Loko, and the growing popularity of the dangerous drink led to it being banned there. So should this caffeine and alcohol concoction be banned on all college campuses?
With brightly colored cans closely resembling those of nonalcoholic energy drinks mostly aimed at young people, it’s not surprising that Four Loko has become popular with underage drinkers on college campuses. In fact, wltx.com reports that the majority of consumers of Four Loko and other “alco-pops” are underage, with some estimates stating that as high as one half of their consumers are not of the legal drinking age.
Recently nine Central Washington University students were taken to the hospital after a party where Four Loko was being consumed, with partygoers describing an atmosphere with girls throwing up everywhere and some laying outside on the ground. All nine students hospitalized were freshmen. Unfortunately, college students may be finding that Four Loko is a cheaper way to get intoxicated with cans costing around $3.00 apiece.
But it’s not just the high alcohol content in Four Loko that makes it so dangerous; it’s the combination of high amounts of alcohol and caffeine. According to ABC News, a healthy 19-year-old college student actually suffered a heart attack due to imbibing the beverage. Drinks that combine alcohol and high amounts of caffeine can have dangerous side effects like hindering respiration, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and dizziness. But this is just the start of the problems these drinks pose.
Combining alcohol and caffeine is dangerous for one other very dangerous side effect: because the caffeine makes drinkers feel more awake and alert, they might not realize just how drunk they really are. This amped-up intoxicated state can make those that consume alco-pops twice as likely to be injured, ride with an intoxicated driver, or take advantage of someone sexually.
So since these drinks seem to be just as dangerous as some illegal drugs, it would not be surprising to see them banned on more college campuses. In fact, the FDA is currently investigating alco-pops like Four Loko to see if their caffeine and alcohol mix makes them illegal, period. In the meantime, these liquid drugs sold on liquor store shelves will likely continue to be popular, and it seems like it will only be a matter of time before we learn just how dangerous they can be.