Mahwah, NJ – An alcohol-laced energy drink equivalent to at least three beers, a can of Red Bull and a shot of espresso has prompted a New Jersey college to ban the drink after nearly two dozen students were hospitalized for alcohol intoxication.
Since the beginning of the fall semester, officials at Ramapo College in Mahwah have seen 23 cases of students being hospitalized for excessive drinking, with a handful of them being tied to the energy drink Four Loko, also known as "blackout in a can."
“We’ve had more incidents of excessive drinking this semester – more than we’ve seen in the past,” the school’s president, Peter P. Mercer, told FoxNews.com. “So while we were looking at this issue, we discovered some of the cases of excessive intoxication were due to drinking Four Loko.”
Mercer said whenever a student drinks excessively and is determined to be a danger to themselves or others – that student is taken to the hospital as a precaution.
“The point is – we can’t turn a blind eye to this – particularly at a product like this,” Mercer sad. “It could seriously compromise their health.”
Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing editor of health for FoxNews.com said the combination of high alcohol content with a stimulant like caffeine is nothing to play around with.
“You have to understand that caffeine reduces the drowsy feeling of being intoxicated, so people tend to drink more,” he said. “Fatigue is your body’s way of telling you it’s had enough, so fooling the body with stimulants creates the perfect scenario for acute alcohol poisoning and potentially death.”
Alvarez said the scary part of all this is that this trend of alcohol-energy drinks could begin to influence younger adolescents. And he’s absolutely right about that.
Mahwah’s police chief, James Batelli, said complaints were brought against three Mahwah High School students after they were found to be in possession of or be intoxicated by Four Loko.
“The bottom line on the product is it gets you very drunk, very quick,” Batelli told NorthJersey.com. “To me, Four Loko is just a dangerous substance.”
In response to the recent rash of incidents involving excessive drinking and Four Loko, Mercer has tightened rules around campus.
“We haven’t necessarily changed the rules – we’ve just tightened them. If a non-student is going to be in a dorm past 11:00 p.m., they need to register to have a guest pass, so people who come from off campus can be monitored. A significant number of these cases have involved non-students,” he said.
Early last week, Mercer also sent out a letter to parents explaining why the school was tightening restrictions.
“The response has been very positive,” he said. “And students are also quite realistic about the dangers of this drink. They known it’s designed so people can become intoxicated very quickly.”
Mercer said he’s going to reach out to other public college presidents around the state to make sure this drink is banned for good.
“I hope they join me in seeking a ban to make it illegal to sell this drink.”
Batelli said he is also planning to contact the state attorney general to look into the marketing of Four Loko, following in the footsteps of New York, Connecticut and California, who have also begun similar probes.