Energy drink too 'Loko' for students?

By Lizzie Kirshenbaum

Contributing Writer

For years, students ranging from middle school to college age have received education concerning the effects of alcohol. Within this subject, the theory of “moderation” has been strongly emphasized. Parents and educators have recognized the impracticality of doing away with all underage drinking and have implemented programs to teach how to drink safely if at all. The University, among many other colleges and universities, requires first-year students to take an online course, “AlcoholEdu.” This course contains an extensive series of lessons and videos pertaining to the risks of drinking.

But as the popularity of the alcoholic beverage “Four Loko” soars, individuals are suffering the effects of alcohol from the worst end of the spectrum. This has caused college authorities to institute total bans on the beverage. The current argument is that alcohol may be reasonable in moderation but not when coupled with caffeine even in a moderate serving.

Researchers have released statements noting the high risks of mixing a depressant with a stimulant. The caffeinated ingredient in the drink causes consumers to prolong the feeling of being intoxicated, causing them to drink more heavily. Additionally, one can of Four Loko, which has a 12 percent alcohol content and 135 milligrams of caffeine, is the equivalent of six servings of beer and approximately two cups of coffee.

While the obvious dangers lie within the ingredients of the product, the company defends its product by stating that it is only to be consumed by responsible adults. Four Loko’s website page on “Responsible Drinking” states: “as a responsible member of the alcoholic beverage industry we take seriously our obligation to market our products only to adults 21 and over.”

The authenticity of this statement is apparent when one accesses the website and must type in his or her birth date, for anyone under the legal age of drinking is barred from entering. Fortunately, at 18 years old I have the creative mind to change the year of my birth in order to access the site. Similarly, I’m sure there are many other resourceful 18-year-olds who can figure out how to purchase Four Loko products despite the 21+ labeled bottles and proposed cautions taken by distributors.

Vice President of the Caron Treatment center and addiction specialist, Harris Stratyner, has attested to the fatal dangers proposed by the drink to people of any age. Phusion Projects, the company that manufactures Four Loko, has stated its products are safe for consumption despite current FDA investigations. The company stresses that the mix of alcohol and caffeine is “nothing new.”

Taurine, one of the four main ingredients of the drink, is the same active ingredient as in Red Bull. One may compare drinking a can of Four Loko to taking a shot of hard liquor and then immediately drinking Red Bull as a chaser. Although neither act portrays good judgment, the latter seems to be the lesser of two evils, at least according to recent physical reactions to Four Loko.

All of this recent hype leads to an important question: Should the University join the movement to ban Four Loko products on campus? In my opinion, the students were admitted for their intelligence, and it is the responsibility of those students to make decisions for themselves. If the recent news of college-age students’ hospitalization for heart attacks does not deter students from consuming Four Loko, why would a campus policy hold any more clout?

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