After a smattering of cases where drunk college students have been seriously sickened, the alcohol/caffeine beverage Four Loko has fallen under scrutiny. The drink, one of many that exist in a gray area with the Food and Drug Administration, is now being banned from some college campuses. Yet, "blackout in a can" seems to be part of the appeal for its cadre of users. Four Loko's parent company, it should be noted, didn't take too kindly to its jittery beverage being singled out and instead urged for more "consumer education."
- The Trend: More College Students Like Mixing Alcohol and Caffeine The New York Times' Abby Goodnough finds anecdotal evidence (Four Loko cans "littering" Boston University, students at "several universities" describing the cheap but potent mixture) to document the rash of cases of college students getting sickened by the alcohol/caffeine beverages. "I do not see any socially redeeming purpose being served by these beverages," said Dr. Peter Mercer, who banned the drink from Ramapo college campus. "At the end of the day, they’re aimed at a young, inexperienced market for the purpose of enabling them to become rapidly intoxicated."
- Uses: When a 'Primary Concern Is Getting Maximally Drunk For Minimal Cash' That's the reason why the drink has been so popular, notes Seattle Weekly's Jason Sheehan. One Four Loko, he figures, is about equivalent to four beers and can keep users "wrecked and really awake" at the same time. Sheehan can't understand why "anyone would drink the stuff at all. That anyone, when staring down a sixer of beer and a can of lemon-lime nut-juice-and-ethanol, would actually go for the Four Loko boggles my mind."
- No Surprise: 'Food and Drug Administration Thinks Caffeinated Alcohol Drinks Are a Bad Idea, Too.' Kurtis Haitt at US News & World Report observes the FDA's ongoing response. "FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein announced in November 2009 that the agency is investigating the safety and legality of mixing caffeine and alcohol in a single product....The scarcely veiled threat is that the FDA can ban caffeinated alcoholic drinks under existing law that bars dangerous food additives. Or it could require manufacturers to reveal how much caffeine is in each drink. My bet is that they'll go for an outright ban."
- What Data-Crunchers Say: How Dangerous Is It? The Philadelphia Inquirer's Carolyn Davis reports on a recent study illuminating the dangers of such drinks. "A Wake Forest University study showed the consequences: College students who reported mixing alcohol and energy drinks consumed more in a single episode and were drunk more in a single week. The research, based on a 2006 survey of 4,271 college students in North Carolina, showed the drinkers to have 'dramatically higher rates of serious alcohol-related consequences,' including being taken advantage of sexually, being in a car with a drunken driver, and getting injured."
- But Really: Isn't the Issue 'That Kids Are Stupid?' Gawker's Hamilton Nolan forgoes an academic assesment: "The reason responsible adults don't generally go around drinking Four Loko is because the shit is vomit-inducingly disgusting, apart from its particular mix of stimulants and depressants."
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