Monday, November 22, 2010

Caffeinated alcoholic drink sickened students at party

ELLENSBURG, Wash. - High-alcohol caffeinated drink, not drugs, sickened Central Washington students at party.

CWU officials, along with state Attorney General Rob McKenna, this morning announced the results of an investigation into the Oct. 8 party in Roslyn.

They reported that the students were drinking a caffeinated malt beverage called "Four Loko," which is 12 percent alcohol. One equals four to five beers and several shots of espresso.

Many of the young people that attended the party were students at Central Washington University. Nine CWU students were sent to the hospital for treatment. One student almost died.

CWU President James L. Gaudino said the blood alcohol levels of hospitalized students ranged from .123 to .35. A blood alcohol concentration of .3 is considered lethal. Each student had consumed “Four Loko” and some had used it with other alcohol.

Professor Ken Briggs, chair of CWU’s Department of Physical Education, School and Public Health, said Four Loko, also known as “black out in a can” or “liquid cocaine,” is one of the most popular of the 25 or more alcoholic energy drinks on the market.

Briggs says the caffeine makes AEDs “a binge-drinkers dream” because the caffeine and other stimulants allow a drinker to ingest larger volumes of alcohol without passing out.

“Being able to feel the effects of tiredness, loss of coordination and even passing out or vomiting are the body’s defenses against consuming doses of alcohol that will kill you,” said Briggs, adding that drinkers like to chug AEDs as quickly as possible and chase them with vodka or rum. “Regardless, once the blood alcohol level reaches a certain level you can drop like a box of rocks.”

McKenna says the drink is cheap and is marketed to young people. It's flavored to mask the taste of the alcohol.

CWU announced that alcoholic energy drinks would be banned at CWU pending a thorough review of drug and alcohol education programs and policies and a study of the dangers associated with the drinks.

McKenna, who will be president-elect of the National Association of Attorneys General next year, announced he would renew a push for a national restriction on the sale of caffeinated malt liquor and, barring action by the federal government, for a ban of the beverage in Washington state.

“They’re marketed to kids by using fruit flavors that mask the taste of alcohol and they have such high levels of stimulants that people have no idea how inebriated they really are. They’re packaged just like non-alcoholic drinks, but include a dangerous dose of malt liquor," he said.

CWU said the investigation is not closed. Detectives are still trying to find out where students, all of whom were younger than 21, obtained the alcoholic beverages. School officials said 40 of the students interviewed by detectives will be interviewed by student conduct officers.

by KING 5 News
Posted on October 25, 2010 at 11:44 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 25 at 2:28 PM

For more information you may contact the SAFE Coalition at 319-293-6412

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