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 College Bans Alcoholic Energy Drinks

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PostSubject: College Bans Alcoholic Energy Drinks   Sun 14 Nov 2010, 12:56 pm

Colleges sound warning on Four Loko

Packing several drinks’ worth of alcohol and a jolt of caffeine into a single container, Four Loko is a potent and increasingly popular brew, known on college campuses as “blackout in a can.’’
Following high-profile cases in which college students in Washington and New Jersey were hospitalized after drinking the malt beverage at parties, administrators at schools across the region, including Harvard, Northeastern, and Boston College, are warning that Four Loko’s heady combination of alcohol and caffeine poses serious risks.

“It is a dangerous concoction,’’ Thomas Nary, director of university health services at Boston College, wrote in a letter to students last week that urged them to abstain.

Four Loko is the latest in a wave of alcoholic energy drinks that have alarmed campus officials, who say the blend of sweet taste and high alcohol content encourages binge drinking and causes some students to become dangerously drunk without realizing it.

The company that manufactures Four Loko, Phusion Projects, says its drink is safe, with an alcohol content on par with some premium beers and about as much caffeine as a large cup of coffee. It says there is nothing inherently dangerous in the combination of alcohol and caffeine, pointing to drinks like Irish coffee and rum and cola that have been consumed for years.

But some health officials, particularly at college campuses, say the drink, with its bright-colored 23-ounce cans, fruit flavors, and low cost, appears to be aimed at a young audience and that its alcoholic potency and growing prominence over the past two years make it especially pernicious.

Mixing alcohol and caffeine can be dangerous, the officials said, because caffeine masks the alcohol’s effects, giving drinkers a false sense of sobriety.

“It can cause you to become a ‘wide-awake drunk,’ ’’ said Madeleine Estabrook, executive director of university health and counseling services at Northeastern University. “You mistakenly conclude you can perform potentially dangerous tasks, like driving or crossing a busy road.’’
With complaints nationwide that the drink is packaged to appeal to underage drinkers, Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office said yesterday that it was looking into whether the company’s marketing is improper.

The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing whether the beverages are safe, telling some 30 manufacturers of caffeinated alcohol beverages last November that the increasing popularity of the drinks “necessitates that we look seriously at the scientific evidence as soon as possible.’’

The FDA has not approved caffeine use for any level in alcoholic beverages and has concerns about their safety, a spokesman for the agency said yesterday. Under public pressure, large brewers such as Anheuser-Busch and Miller discontinued caffeinated alcoholic beverages, the FDA said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that drinkers who consume alcohol mixed with caffeinated energy drinks are three times more likely to binge-drink, and twice as likely to report being taken advantage of sexually.

“It’s a very quick way to become intoxicated without some of the bad effects,’’ said Linda Aronson, director of health services at Anna Maria College. “So you start making bad choices.’’

Phusion Projects, in a statement yesterday, defended Four Loko as a legal product that is only harmful if used irresponsibly, and that singling out a product will not curb alcohol abuse.

“When consumed responsibly, Four Loko is just as safe as any other alcoholic beverage,’’ the company said.

The company said a can has roughly the same amount of caffeine as a tall Starbucks drip coffee, and that it contains seven warnings about the alcohol content and the need for an ID to purchase the beverage.

Phusion Projects said it was cooperating with the FDA’s investigation and submitted evidence that combining caffeine and alcohol is safe.

Four Loko has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, after a number of students at Ramapo College in New Jersey were hospitalized for alcohol-related problems after consuming it. Central Washington University also banned the drink after nine students were hospitalized after a party last month.

In an e-mail sent to students last week, Harvard officials warned that the stimulants in the drink delay “feelings of drunkenness,’’ allowing the person to consume even more alcohol.

“Dozens of college students around the country — including Harvard — have required medical treatment as a result of consuming this alcoholic beverage,’’ wrote David Rosenthal, director of Harvard University Health Services and Ryan Travia, director of the Office of Alcohol & Other Drug Services. “We strongly recommend that members of the Harvard community do NOT drink Four Loko and urge your friends to do the same.’’
In a similar advisory issued yesterday, Boston University told students that “alcohol companies are targeting college students with these products without regard for your safety.’’“The danger here is not just the alcohol content but rather, the combination of high amounts of alcohol and caffeine,’’ the e-mail stated.

Tess Gittleman, a senior at BU, said the drink has become popular among college students as a quick, inexpensive way to become intoxicated.

“The major draw for students is that it’s a very cost-effective way to drink,’’ she said, saying a can costs around $3.

Christina Petrillo, a manager at Liquor Land in Boston, said the store had taken the product off the shelves after the recent cases in Washington and New Jersey.

“It’s really easy to abuse,’’ said BU senior Jackie Paris. “It’s cheap and convenient and it packs a punch.’’

Paris had her first can about a month ago. “After a few sips, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness,’ ’’ she recalled. “It’s a very strong drink and it really comes on quick.’’
Article Source:
The Boston Globe


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