Risky Combo

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - 8:57am

High alcohol energy drink blamed for sickening dozens of college students.

A high-alcohol caffeinated drink, not drugs, sickened several Central Washington students at an October 8th party in Roslyn, Washington.

Central Washington University officials, along with state Attorney General Rob McKenna, announced the results of an investigation into the party on Monday.

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 freshman Devyn Smith was at the party.

"It wasn't just me, there were different people drinking different things and it almost happened to them, the same things exactly," she said.

She still feels the sting of humiliation.

She was the one found by police in a Safeway parking lot
passed out, near death.

"I was put in ICU and I don't remember most of the night," she said.

Devyn was sure she was drugged, until the toxicology tests came back.

"They released that there were no date rape drugs found," she said.

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 alcoholic energy drinks AED "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."

Four Loko is made by Phusion Projects Inc., of Chicago.

It comes in several varieties, including fruit punch and blue raspberry.

McKenna says the drink is cheap and is marketed to young people.

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.

The company that makes Four Loko issued a statement, saying:

"Consuming caffeine and alcohol together has been done safely for years. We market our products responsibly and only to those of the legal drinking age. Making college campuses safe and healthy environments for learning is a goal we share with administrators even those who have chosen to ban our products."

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.
 

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