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Four Loko --'blackouts-in-a-can'-- banned by NJ college

Jenna Johnson

The Facebook group name says it all: "four lokos are blackouts in a can and the end of my morals."

Four Loko -- fruity energy drinks with 12 percent alcohol -- started popping up on college campuses this spring. The 23.5 oz cans sell for less than three bucks each and come in 10 flavors, including blue raspberry and fruit punch.

loko.jpgMore than 70,000 people like the Facebook group and hundreds have written on the group wall, bragging about their "lokos" number, sharing stories of stupid things they did after a few lokos and posting drunken photos. (Just warning you, some of the posts are offensive.)

"1 & I was done...walked around for 2hrs with NO RECOLLECTION of that night!!!!" one woman wrote. Another guy added: "I remember my first Four Loko it was the purple one and it tasted like i was drinking dimetap and chashing it with redbull. But it got the job done."

Needless to say, caffeine and booze can be a dangerous mix. A 2006 Wake Forest study found that college drinkers who mixed the two were more likely to hurt themselves. (Researchers also found that 28 percent of students mix caffeine with alcohol at least once a month.) A 2009 University of Florida study found that college-age drinkers were four times more likely to try to drive home after drinking alcohol mixed with caffeine than if they just drank alcohol.

Inside Higher Ed reported that one can of Four Loko is the equivalent of drinking "three beers, a can of Red Bull and a large espresso."

This month Ramapo College in New Jersey banned caffeinated alcoholic beverages after 23 people were hospitalized for alcohol-related problems, The Record reported. The local police chief told The Record: "To me, Four Loko is just a dangerous substance." Other states have questioned how the beverages are marketed and some stores have decided not to sell them.

Meanwhile, students are discovering the cheap, colorful cans of energetic booze -- and writing at length about them in college newspapers.

Here's how the Yale Daily News described the phenomenon earlier this month:

Since its whirlwind romance with college students began this June, Four Loko has taken the world by storm, becoming a veritable phenomenon faster, even, than Obama, The Beatles or American Eagle. Its name is veiled in mystique, and is quickly becoming a part of the vernacular of the young folks at Yale, in the concrete jungle where dreams are made of there's nothing you can't do and even in the sprawl.

At the University of South Carolina, The Daily Gamecock declared "Livin' La Vida Loko" and shared one student's story:

She woke up Saturday morning, dehydrated, fatigued with a certain sensitivity to light and struggling to digest water.
Having experienced these symptoms before, the first-year student knew it was a hangover.
"It was the worst hangover I ever had," she said.
The night before, she'd been to a friend's apartment and drank an entire can of lemonade-flavored Four Loko, an alcoholic beverage made with guarana, taurine and caffeine. It boasts a 12-percent alcohol content and an undisclosed amount of caffeine.

And at the University of Richmond, The Collegian reported:

A new beverage has been appearing on the University of Richmond campus from residence halls to University Forest Apartments, and it seems to be increasing in popularity as each weekend passes.

Is anyone at your campus drinking Four Loko? Are students or administrators worried about the health risks? Should the beverage be banned?

Campus Overload is a daily must-read for all college students. Make sure to bookmark http://washingtonpost.com/campus-overload. You can also follow me on Twitter and fan Campus Overload on Facebook.

By Jenna Johnson  | October 18, 2010; 11:57 AM ET
Categories:  News Overload  | Tags:  Ramapo College  
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