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Blackout in a Can: Should Stupid Alcoholic Drinks be Banned?

Blackout in a Can: Should Stupid Alcoholic Drinks be Banned?

Seemingly (from the perspective of an underage drinker), the problem with getting really drunk is that you eventually pass out and are unable to enjoy the glory stemming from all of the embarrassing things you could have potentially accomplished while using 1/16th of your brain capacity. This passing out (or as seasoned drinkers like to call it, “blacking out”) holds some benefit for the indulgent consumer – it basically keeps you from consuming more and thus saves your life. While there is notably more to this equation than I am conservatively outlining, many young, unseasoned, drinkers have made it through the night with nothing more than some projectile vomiting and a hangover. And of course, there are those, well past the age of consent, who continue to drink with abandon and find some perverse and sustained glory in their inebriated antics. That said, alcohol related accidents and assaults are the source of much of the death and mayhem that occur on a daily basis out there, and everyone from concerned parents to religious leaders have been speaking out against the stuff for hundreds of years – still it is widely available.

Enter a, not so new, brand of caffeinated alcohol drinks that promise to keep your alcohol buzz on while keeping you sufficiently buzzed. Now the concept of mixing caffeine and alcohol is, at least, decades old, and was popularized with the ever-repellent Red Bull. Red Bull and Vodka became a kind of “go to” drink for those who enjoyed being sloppy and jittery at the same time. These are the same people who make screaming at cab drivers a nighttime sport and are of the belief that Rave culture is still as relevant as it was 20 years ago. But Red Bull is relatively pedestrian compared to the growing popularity of the caffeinated alcoholic beverage that goes by the name of Four Loco. Best described by Seattle Weekly columnist Jason Sheehan, this disgusting, rainbow-colored malt liquor juiced with caffeine, taurine, and guarana is ” a drink that was already wickedly popular among college students, idiots, problem drinkers and those who want their vomit to look like a rainbow. ” The amount of alcohol and caffeine contained in a single can of Four Loco is about equivalent to about a six-pack of beer and five cups of coffee. And needless to say, this drink is huge on college campuses right now.
Another place where Four Loco is also huge is all over the Internet and as a talking point for every concerned parent, school administrator, and politician desperately trying to ban, or at least regulate, the stuff. This firestorm comes after dozens of Central Washington University students got sick and nine were hospitalized this past week after admitting they had been drinking Four Loko. Now many college students (as I had noted above) are pretty much always getting sick from over consumption of alcohol, but the difference here is that with the potent combination of caffeine and alcohol, these drinkers (not limited to students and teens) can consume so much more alcohol before their body gives out. In addition, because of the caffeine and its stimulating effect, those that are already drunk from Four Loco have less of a grasp on how drunk they actually are. This leads to drinkers feeling confident that they can “manage” and countless more blackouts and fatalities (as reported, the caffeinated boozers are four times more likely to want to drive home).

Several states are considering outlawing Four Loco and at least two universities have banned it from campus while the Food and Drug Administration reviews its safety But really, the rainbow-colored elixir is already out of the bag, and if Four Loco goes the way of Absinthe, won’t there be something else just as nefarious and revolting to replace it? Aren’t there worse offenders out there that we have yet to eradicate, like crack cocaine and Jägermeister?

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

76 comments

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9:26PM PDT on Jun 13, 2011

it's hard to ban stupid

11:17AM PDT on Mar 13, 2011

Well, I guess you've still got you head firmly up some uncomfortable place and didn't learn a damned thing from the lessons of 1919-1933. So let me summarize it for you in one very simple sentence.

PROHIBITION. DOESN'T. WORK.

Now I apologize for using words of more than one syllable, which I understand may have gotten you somewhat confused by the obvious lessons of history. But wake up, will you? That idea FAILED! It's NEVER going to be possible to effectively ban a product class like that for which there is a genuine demand. What you CAN do is promote the rise of a VERY vicious criminal class and the advent of even unsafer substitute totally unregulated (and untaxed) products to take the place of the "evil" substances you tried to abolish.

Hang it up. You lost that war in the 1920's, and it was buried by FDR.

8:56PM PST on Nov 27, 2010

Very distressing picture, shouldn't glamourize or
glorify this drink.

8:58AM PST on Nov 16, 2010

parents should talk to their kids about the dangers of mixing alcohol and caffeine. There are plenty of other ways to catch a buzz then to drink all that sugar and caffeine.

8:23AM PST on Nov 16, 2010

government should impose and control the drinkers... banning could not be an answer but control does...

6:07PM PST on Nov 15, 2010

I think banning won't solve the problem, people who drink these stuff will probably substitute for something similar or worst. Of course FDA should have better control on this kind of drink.

1:00PM PST on Nov 13, 2010

Incredibly subjective and biased article.

Anything is dangerous in the wrong hands. Banning products is probably not the answer... If you were to take that route, what would stop us from banning EVERYTHING unhealthy for human consumption? Does banning soda seem fair to the responsible drinkers because a few go overboard?

9:15AM PDT on Nov 6, 2010

thanks for the information

5:16PM PDT on Nov 4, 2010

Responsible drinking is the key. Alcohol is fine in moderation.

2:40PM PDT on Nov 4, 2010

Good information.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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