When nine students were hospitalized at Central Washington University earlier this month, officials assumed it was the usual suspects; namely some mixture of date rape drugs and other illegal substances. But as it turns out, the culprit was and is completely legal: Four Loko, the unholy and ridiculously potent fruit-flavored love child of booze and caffeinated soda, sometimes affectionately referred to as the Four Horsemen (caffeine, guarana, taurine, and alcohol).
It’s no coincidence that word on the street is that all of the convenience stores in the Universit of Oregon campus area sold out of their stock of the stuff on the night of the freshman riots that ended in tear-gassing. The students at CWU were rushed to the emergency room with blood alcohol levels ranging from 0.123 to .35. To put it in perspective, anyone blowing a .08 is considered legally drunk, and .3 is considered potentially lethal.
One 24 oz. can of the stuff is 12% alcohol by volume – about four to six beers worth – which puts it on par with even the bummiest of bum wines. Some of the students were even stupid enough to mix it with additional alcohol, according to CWU President James L. Gaudino.
On first sips, all the stimulants help to numb the quaffer to the effects of the hooch. Once the effects wear off, though, the booze – which is metabolized more slowly by the liver – kicks in with a vengeance. It put 23 New Jersey students in the ER last month for the same reason (we didn’t care about them as much, though, because the law of averages predicted that at least a few of them must have been guidos).
Washingon’s attorney general is pushing for the Food and Drug Administration to ban the stuff after a state effort fizzled out earlier this year. Instead of forcing legislation, policy makers should be doing more to educate younger, more inexperienced drinkers about responsible drinking. Remember the first time you drank an entire fifth of Johnny Walker Red and collapsed in a gutter in a pool of your own vomit because you didn’t know any better? Me either. Funny how that works. But we live and we learn.
Most alcohol awareness efforts put on by schools rely almost entirely on scare tactics and “just say no” to get their point across. Abstinence-only education, even as it applies to drinking, just doesn’t work. Simply telling people – indignant freshman, nonetheless – that they can’t have something because it’s bad isn’t going to help. Likewise, outlawing it may just extenuate the “forbidden fruit” mentality.
This isn’t to say that if we just teach kids about responsible drinking that they won’t get piss drunk and get rushed to the emergency room – it, however, make them less likely to accidentally do it out of inexperience when they don’t plan to.
But seriously, just stay away from the Four, anyway. That stuff tastes like day-glow watermelon ass. You’re better than that.