When a student goes into cardiac arrest as a result of drinking excessively, we are reminded of the dangers of binge drinking. But when a student goes into cardiac arrest as a result of excessively consuming one particular drink, the incident highlights the danger that drink poses. Students who are taken to GW Hospital as a result of consuming this drink, in the words of EMeRG Coordinator David Fifer, are “much, much sicker than [EMeRG’s] typical alcohol overdose patients.”
The drink is Four Loko.
Four Loko contains “a mix of caffeine, taurine, guarana and alcohol,” according to its website. This combination of caffeine, a stimulant, and alcohol, a depressant, poses a risk in general, but even more so when consumed excessively. Given the casual attitude with which many college students view drinking, the danger of consuming something like Four Loko is further exaggerated.
The drink may be popular on college campuses, including our own, but it is inherently different from beer, vodka or other beverages typically popular among college students. When consumed in excessive amounts, the dangers of Four Loko surpass the dangers of chugging a beer or doing a few shots.
Four Loko garnered national attention when police at Central Washington University found a group of students lying unconscious in a parking lot after consuming the drink. Some of the students’ blood alcohol concentration reached as high as .35, while the legal blood alcohol content is .08. Central Washington University, Ramapo College of New Jersey, University of Rhode Island and the states of Michigan and Utah have all banned it. Now, the D.C. Department of Health wants emergency personnel to specifically report incidents in which patients consumed Four Loko. Our University has said it will not ban Four Loko from campus, but D.C. lawmakers may soon remove the brightly colored cans from store shelves.
Commonly referred to as “blackout in a can,” Four Loko has as much caffeine as two eight-ounce cups of coffee, and has 12 percent alcohol by volume. This combination of caffeine and alcohol is significant because people who consume any caffeinated alcoholic beverage lose the ability to gauge how much they’ve had to drink. The stimulant and depressant counteract each other, so while some systems in your body are speeding up, others are slowing down.
Given the numerous incidents of near-death experiences among college students as a result of consuming this drink, as well as its popularity on college campuses, it is important to be conscious of the health risks Four Loko poses. It has not yet been banned by D.C. or GW, so students have the option of drinking it if they want to. But we have to remember that it is not just an average drink, and when consumed excessively, Four Loko is potentially deadly.
Readers can visit the Forum to comment on this editorial.