Warning: Four Loko Makes Drunken College Students Act Like Drunken College Students

NPR joins the brew-ha-ha over alcoholic beverages spiked with caffeine (or is it caffeinated beverages spiked with alcohol?):

In Washington state, nine college freshmen landed in the hospital recently with near-lethal blood alcohol levels after drinking a caffeinated malt beverage called Four Loko, according to law enforcement officials.

Police reports describe chaos at the October incident, where officers found female freshmen unable to talk or sit up, lying on mattresses in a basement near Central Washington University, about two hours east of Seattle.

Police shuttled loads of intoxicated freshmen back to campus and took the worst cases to the hospital. One student almost died, according to the police reports. At first, investigators thought the students had been drugged, but it turns out they were drinking Four Loko.

Now, Washington's Attorney General Rob McKenna wants state lawmakers to ban these types of drinks.

"The wide availability of alcoholic energy drinks means that a single mistake can be deadly. If you're a 135-pound woman [and] you drink two of these Four Lokos...you can reach the level of toxicity for alcohol poisoning," McKenna says....

One can has about as much caffeine as a six-pack of Diet Coke. One can also fills an empty wine bottle and in fact, contains about as much alcohol as a bottle of wine....

Jarod Franklin, 23, says he has used these drinks to the point of blacking out. He and his friends liked them because of the buzz — the feeling of energized euphoria.

"We would start to lose those inhibitions and then [it would be like], 'How did you get a broken knuckle?' 'Oh, I punched through a three layer of ice [because] you bet me I couldn't,'" Franklin says.

NPR is right that Four Loko's alcohol content (12 percent) makes it about as strong as wine and that 23.5 ounces is almost 750 milliliters (695, to be more precise). But college students were getting drunk, passing out, going to the hospital for alcohol poisoning, and injuring themselves through stupid stunts long before Four Loko and similar products were introduced, and I venture to say they will continue to do so even after the evil drink du jour is banned.

At least NPR did not claim that Four Loko causes heart attacks. And so far, I haven't seen any news outlets highlight the homicidal implications of the caffeine in Four Loko, although the New York Daily News does mention that "attackers involved in a horrific gay bias attack in the Bronx last month reportedly forced their victim to guzzle cans of the drink."

The Daily News story is mainly about one of Four Loko's rare defenders: "culinary provocateur" Eddie Huang, who "scrapped plans for an all-you-can-drink Four Loko night" after the paper informed him that such promotions are illegal. Illustrating a more common reaction to the controversy, the makers of MateVeza, the only craft beer to appear on the Michigan Liquor Control Commission's list of newly forbidden "alcohol energy drinks," are keen to distance their product, an India pale ale brewed with the caffeine-containing herb yerba maté, from Four Loko and its competitors:

We believe our inclusion on this list was a mistake; MateVeza is not currently sold in Michigan and it hardly fits the Commission's characterization (inexpensive, brightly colored can of 12% alcohol malt liquor with added caffeine). Since MateVeza is made with yerba mate as an ingredient and not caffeine as an additive, it is in full compliance with TTB and FDA guidelines. Further, MateVeza was not included in the FDA's inquiry into caffeinated alcoholic beverages. We have brought this to the Commission's attention and are seeking to be removed from their list even though we have no immediate plans to distribute to Michigan.

As I noted the other day, there is little rhyme or reason to the commission's list. But the FDA, which takes the position that combining alcohol with caffeine is probably illegal because it has never said it isn't, has been pretty arbitrary too, sending a warning letter to the Ithaca Beer Company concerning Eleven, a coffee-infused stout that it produced to mark the brewery's 11th anniversary in 1999.

[Thanks to Robert Woolley for the NPR link.]

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  • Almanian||

    Man, I remember when I was in college. NO ONE got drunk to the point of passing out or "nearly died".

    Thanks Jeebus for the Michigan Goobernators looking out for teh children adults students. Warshington state legislators should Do Something™ about this - I think Meeeeshigun's recent actions are a great place to start.

    /stupid

  • Xenocles||

    I certainly don't remember nearly drinking myself to death that one time. No, really, I don't.

  • robc||

    I also dont remember the cops beating on the guy passed out in the bathroom trying to make him throw up (he ended up hospitalized). But Im pretty sure I imagined that. I must have because Jack Daniels doesnt have any caffeine in it.

  • ||

    First they came for the Four Loko drinkers, and I didn't speak up because who drinks that shit?

    Then they came for the Raw Tea drinkers, and I didn't speak up because, seriously, who drinks that shit? (Obviously nobody because it's not even on the market any more.)

    But so help me God, now that they're coming for my coffee stout there will be hell to pay.

  • Mo||

    And what will happen to the noble Irish Coffee?

  • Paul||

    female freshmen unable to talk or sit up, lying on mattresses in a basement near Central Washington University, about two hours east of Seattle.

    If this activity is halted... what will we post to youtube or Break.com?

  • D. C.||

  • Paul||

    That I can live with, I was fearing nothing but this.

  • Rich||

    [Huang] "scrapped plans for an all-you-can-drink Four Loko night" after the paper informed him that such promotions are illegal.

    What if it were billed as "please-drink-just-a-small-amount-of Four Loko night"? Just asking.

  • Ignoramus||

    "attackers involved in a horrific gay bias attack in the Bronx last month reportedly forced their victim to guzzle cans of the drink."

    Idiots. Didn't they know it would just make the victim gayer? Or would that be 'more gay'?

  • Fiscal Meth||

    "The victim then reportedly felt no effects from the drink because he smokes ice and drinks vodka every weekend(as all gay men do). He then reportedly explained to his attackers that they were gayer than he is for drinking that syrupy bullshit."

  • ||

    Guess what? The WA LCB just voted for the ban. Fucking pathetic douchebags.

  • Paul||

    Why do you hate pathetic douchebags?

  • ||

    For their freedom, obviously.

  • Warty||

    Some of my worst nights have begun with Sparks, Jager bombs, or the equivalent. It would be a tragedy if today's college idiots aren't allowed to disgrace themselves the same way.

  • ||

    I figured you for more of a Cisco person. Me, I preferred Night Train or just malt liquor. Ever have someone go pick you up some malt liquor and they come back with "menthol" Colt 45? I HAVE.

  • Warty||

    A test subject reports, "Strawberry Cisco has a bouquet similar to that of Frankenberry cereal fermented in wine cooler with added sprinkle of brandy for presentation."

    You're better at being an alcoholic than me.

  • ||

    Well, I have to make up for your dominance in rape and hirsuteness.

  • ||

    I object to bans on substances. But I make an exception for Cisco. When it first came out it looked like a wine cooler, was packaged like a wine cooler, and even tasted (sorta) like a wine cooler. One six pack between a friend and I (that's three measly wine cooler sized servings) and we were both puking our guts out.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Night train? Worst hangover I've ever had in my life. You have to stick that shit in the freezer, like cheap vodka.

  • IceTrey||

    Mmmm, Colt 45 and clove cigarettes. Good times, good times.

  • ||

    Clove cigarettes are illegal too now, you know. GWB was standing in the way of that; it was one of the first things done when President Obama took office.

  • Paul||

    When are the officials who voted for this ban up for re-election?

  • Warty||

    How could you glibertarians be against this? This is small-d democracy in action.

  • ||

    Here all this time I thought "balloon juice" was slang for jenkem when it turns out it's actually slang for Four Loko. Boy is my face red...

  • ||

    It's actually jenkem-infused Four Loko. And it's murdering our children.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Yeah well, fuck me. The fucking FDA may ban menthol cigarettes. I guess I'll be buying them on the black market, "imported" from Canada.

  • Paul||

    Only normal cigarettes are "safe and effective".

  • Mr Whipple||

    They say that it's for the kids. The menthol flavoring attracts youths. They already banned all of the other flavorings. Actually, I think you can still get flavored rolling papers, and flavored blunts.

    WTF?

    I'm going to invent a menthol spray for cigarettes, and market it in all the bodegas and 7-11s.

    "Gimmee a couple loosies, and some of dat menthol spray."

  • Paul||

    Fun prank: Legalize marijuana, and sell flavored joints with menthol, cloves, and other child-friendly choices, wrapped in Hello Kitty rolling papers.

    Watch the liberal heads assplode.

  • Kristen||

    Menthol attracts youths? Fucking menthol? The fuck? That's like saying kids love crunchy peanut butter.

  • bill||

    well im glad they got rid of black licorice cigarettes too.

  • ||

    People are also using cigarillos as well to get around it. Naturally, the government is not amused at all this ingenuity in getting around the ban.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    "The wide availability of alcoholic energy drinks means that a single mistake can be deadly"

    A single mistake could be deadly with a narrow or nill availability of alcoholic energy drinks too. People drive every day and could die every day from a single mistake. Also, making the same negligible little mistake over and over can be deadly over time. Disasters where no mistakes were made can be deadly. Genes can be deadly. Bear attacks can be deadly. Aging is always deadly.

    What's my point? Ban 'em all of course!

  • ||

    Let's hope college students never discover Everclear and punch.

  • BakedPenguin||

    "Purple Jesuses" Everclear and $.99 "grape drink".

    Of course, we discovered that in high school, so they're probably safe by college.

  • Cyto||

    Where I grew up Everclear (or Southern Comfort) punch was called "PJ's". I have no idea where the name came from, but it was traditionally mixed in a large tub with lots of fruit. Legend had it that all the alcohol ended up in the fruit, so if you really wanted to get blasted you'd eat the fruit. Sounded pretty dumb to me, but they had fun with it.

  • ¢||

    attackers involved in a horrific gay bias attack in the Bronx last month reportedly forced their victim to guzzle cans of the drink

    This is the alleged event that's about.

    It's such a racist-appeal rumbustions story, there's just no fucking way it happened like that.
    But North Korea West needs another ban on something poor people like, because if they stop outlawing low-class pleasures they just won't know who they are anymore, so this is the news.

  • ||

    I wonder if they realize that the more people talk about banning them, the more popular they get? It's waaayyyy cooler to get smashed on Four Lokos if they're maybe-illicit, certainly dangerous than if they're just another shitty alcohol.

  • ||

    People who think banning things will stop people from using those things don't really get the concept of something being more enticing because of illicitness. If they did, they wouldn't ban shit in the first place.

  • Cy Nickelfuque||

    Gives one pause about hollering for a balanced budget amendment.

  • I am not the government's ATM||

    Four Loko, what is this amateur hour? I started my college day with coca tea with a dilaudid sprinkle.

  • Robert||

    Has FDA ever said combining sugar with salt isn't illegal? I imagine the only way the Q comes up with alcohol & caffeine is that somebody asked.

  • Cyto||

    Actually, honey roasted peanuts are a pretty lethal combination. Maybe you are on to something there.

  • ||

    And it just got banned here in lovely WA : http://www.komonews.com/news/local/107054863.html

  • ||

    I was in line at a gas station store behind someone who was buying a few of those. He already looked pretty ripped. I pointed at the cans and said "I've heard some good stuff about that." He looked at me and laughed and said "You know what I'm saying?"

  • ||

    So did you buy some? You are a terrible storyteller, you know.

  • ||

    What were you expecting, that he would bust out in song about the wonder that is Four Loko? And no I didn't buy any of that stuff. I bought some gatorade though.

  • ||

    See, this is what I'm talking about. Gatorade? You could have said, uh...malt liquor?

  • Cyto||

    Maybe it was the blue stuff. That's pretty edgy for Gatorade.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    How many did you have before you wrote that post?

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Years ago I stopped in the local liquor store to pick up a 40 for my drive home from work. I had taken the afternoon off to go carp fishing on the mighty Mississippi so I wasn't looking/smelling too good.

    I was picking a 40 of Camo out of the cooler when one of the homeless bums who lived under the nearby bridge looked at me and said "Hey brother, they're cheaper if you by the 6 pack."

    But I'm sure my "brother" would never have said anything nice about Four Loko.

  • Coeus||

    If I have the media cycle timeline correct, the proposed ban in Washington is a case of the unholy confluence of the pussy pass, fear-based 24hr news cycle, and grandstanding, dickbag politicians. There was a report of "date rape drugs" splattered all over the media after the cops found all these drunk college kids. It wasn't just women found passed out, but from most of the news coverage that's hard to determine at best, and in many cases was ought-right lied about. Date rape drugs were the first thing fingered, despite a distinct lack of any evidence, and the feminist blogosphere erupted in outrage (there are still sites calling for the blood of the evil men who drugged those poor, innocent women).

    When it was determined that these women were just drunk, there was a scramble to finger another cause. Four Loko drew the short straw, and the media coverage spiraled from there, linking it to anything and everything, from gay-bashing to heart attacks.

    Without our natural inclination blame the actions of women on external factors, this interpretation of events would have never gained enough traction in the media for the grand-standing nanny politicians to take notice.

    It's a college campus. The cops find passed out drunk students at parties all the time. It wasn't until it was falsely reported that these were all women that people started howling for blood.

    (And yes, I realize that the FDA was looking into this earlier, but this is the incident specifically and repeatedly mentioned in connection with the proposed Washington ban, and it's popularity is a direct result of this.)

  • hmm||

    looks like it's back to generic redbull and white label vodka for college kids.

    It isn't like this sort of drink hasn't been around forever and three days.

  • ||

    Thank you for your full page ad begging for donations. It has helped justify a decision I made, just now: I will NEVER give your organization a penny. I do not like being FORCED to click through on your bullshit ad. There was no X to close the stupid thing. I came here for the article, I did not come here to be link jacked.

    Fuck you and your fucking advertising. Congratulations, you just LOST money. Keep up the good work!

  • ||

    Yeah, there's no X to close it. But if you click on the word "CLOSE"...

  • Lint||

    Or anywhere that isn't in the box...

  • Guy||

    There was an "X" on mine. Sure you just didn't see it?

  • Amakudari||

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Fart.

  • hke||

    I'm going to go get a happy meal and wash it down with a can of this stuff.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Don't forget to salt your fries.

  • Amakudari||

    Jesus, all these stories really, really make me want some Four Loko.

    Four loko changed my life. Because now I can get drunk and workout at the same time! My name is Sean and four lokos changed my life.

    Finally, some perspective.

  • me||

    That is a great site. my favorite comment,

    "Four_no-go: Drank one and a half four lokos- opened my dresser drawer, puked in it, shut the drawer, and went to bed. Am stocking up on this sh*t before massachusetts bans it."

  • Kristen||

    I drank a bottle of Kahlua next to the reflecting pool (yes, that reflecting pool) my freshman year of college. But dammit, I didn't drink it with coffee, cause that apparently would have been illegal and shit.

  • Amakudari||

  • Corduroy||

    I'll stick my Sudafed, thank you.

  • Dello||

    "near Central Washington University, about two hours east of Seattle."

    LOL!!

    Only if you're in an airplane.

  • robc||

    ...Chicago, which is two hours east of Seattle (in time zones)...

  • Libertarian||

    My favorite two quotes from the npr story:

    "But, with no serving recommendations, calorie count or caffeine content on the can's label, it is awfully hard for consumers to figure out exactly what's in a can of Four Loko and how much is safe to drink."

    Yep, nothing worse than trying to get fit shaced, and not knowing how many calories you're ingesting or knowing the proper way to serve it.

    "Franklin says he no longer drinks Four Loko, because he did not like how he felt afterward and spending the money on it."

    This is uncannily similar to my younger days when beer wasn't free and we got hangovers. Spooky!

  • Corduroy||

    So, what's the real deal here? Did the Four Loko brewer piss off the distributor's monopoly or something? Or are we really crapping our collective pants over a sugary sweet version of Irish Coffee

  • Joe M||

    I used to drink Red Bull and Grey Goose L'Orange in ridiculous quantities. This makes me want to do it again, just to thumb my nose at the nonsense.

    Oh, and I'm going to be bottling a homebrewed imperial mocha porter soon, so suck it FDA, Michigan LCC, et al.

  • ||

    I live in a major college town in the North East and the hype around this stuff is remarkable. The police have gone to all the bars and distributors, asking them (nicely?) to take it off their shelves. Funny, they all said "No Thanks."

  • Spartacus||

    I for one am glad teh college childrun are finally protected. We must celebrate! Jagerbombs for everyone!

  • Poppin' Caps lock||

    Money quote: "We would start to lose those inhibitions and then [it would be like], 'How did you get a broken knuckle?' 'Oh, I punched through a three layer of ice [because] you bet me I couldn't,'" Franklin says.

  • David Smith||

    As a graduate of Berkeley, I are an expert on low tech alchemy.

    Lessee: One bottle of vodka (hell, go first class - Everclear) and a bunch of No Doz tablets (each equal to a cup of coffee and costing about 7 cents each if purchased retail).

    Side note: Irish Coffee?

  • FFXIVgils||

    Agree with that one! The effort to ban this kinds of drinks seems to be futile. Other than that it may poke the interest of youth to explore vigorously.

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