Campus concerned by popular alcoholic drink

"Alcoholic beverage Four Loko, has attracted attention from the media, attorneys general and campuses across the country.

"There have been discussions about banning Four Loko on campus. Ted Winkworth of the LifeStyles Center thinks a campus ban would be a mistake. Media attention makes people wonder what they are missing and banning it on campus would increase curiosity. The only real solutions are government bans and self-responsibility. Caffeine disguises the level of intoxication, but blaming the product is unreasonable, Winkworth said.

"Chelsea Smith, Resident Mentor at Oswego State, said she could tell the difference between residents drinking alcoholic energy drinks and those drinking alcohol alone. They were more unruly and belligerent.

""People don’t drink Four Loko socially," Smith said. "They drink it to get fucked up."

"The Food and Drug Administration has contacted almost 30 manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages. The manufacturers have been instructed to prove that the products are GRAS (generally recognized as safe). They have 30 days to provide sufficient evidence and failure to do so will result in removal of products from the market.

"In the past year, companies such as Anheuser-Busch and Miller have both agreed to discontinue their popular caffeinated alcoholic beverages, Tilt, Bud Extra and Sparks. They also established that no caffeinated alcoholic beverages will be produced in the future.

"Phusion Projects, LLC., the company that produces Four Loko, refused to answer questions. According to its website, the company shares responsible drinking material with all of the stores that sell their products and communicates frequently with distributors about checking IDs. Four Loko cans also display seven warnings about alcohol content and the need for an ID to purchase.

"The facts page briefly mentions the FDA’s investigation into the safety of caffeine and alcoholic combinations. Putting its company among the 40 (really less than 30, according to FDA) others companies being scrutinized. It describing the idea of combining alcohol and caffeine as "by no means new or novel."

"The website, however, said its drinks are "the next generation in alcoholic beverages."

""Four is taking it to the next level and revolutionizing the caffeinated alcoholic beverage industry… it’s really one of a kind," the website boasts.

"On Nov. 1, Ramapo College of New Jersey instituted a number of alcohol policies, one of the most controversial being the ban of Four Loko. Megan Anderle, Editor-in-Chief of The Ramapo News, said the ban has stemmed largely from the 19 hospitalizations, four of those nearly resulting in death in the first month alone. These were cases of severe alcohol poisoning. A blood alcohol level of .30 is frequently fatal. In one of the 19 cases the BAC was five times higher than the legal limit to drive was .40. With a student body of less than 6,000 students, the numbers become even more alarming. Four Loko has been deemed a "major contributor" in every case.

""It’s unprecedented," Anderle said. "We’re not a party school. We’re known for academics."

"Getting caught with Four Loko, even as a first offense, results in a $200 fine. Even with all this, Anderle thinks students will disregard the new policies and be smarter about hiding it. Overall, the students at Ramapo have been unhappy about the new policies. They have experienced a decline in school spirit, as well as the number of students that stay on campus for the weekend.

"These cases of alcoholic energy drink abuse were not isolated to Ramapo. Recently, a group of Central Washington University students passed out at a party. It was first believed illicit drugs were to blame, but it was later discovered that the students had consumed Four Loko.

"The Wake Forest University School of Medicine conducted a study to test consequences of alcoholic energy drink in 2006. It was called "Caffeinated Cocktails: Get Wired, Get Drunk, Get Injured." The study found that 24 percent of students who had reported consuming alcohol in the past 30 days had also reported consuming alcohol with energy drinks.

"The results sent an alarming message to attorneys general. When consuming alcohol with energy drinks, the chances of being taken advantage of sexually and the likeliness of riding with a driver who was under the influence of alcohol nearly doubled compared to those who consumed alcohol with no energy drink.

"The same study also concluded that those who consumed alcoholic energy drinks were more than twice as likely to sustain an injury, require medical attention or take advantage of another sexually compared with alcohol users.