Loco for Four Loko: why BU admin should change the alcohol policy

Posted By mayh3m

I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the craze that has taken over college: Four Loko. For those of you unaware (if so, I’d really love to speak and understand how you can be so disconnected. It’s an accomplishment, really.) this is what Wikipedia says about Four Loko:

Four is a caffeinated energy drink produced by Phusion Projects LLC of Chicago, Illinois, USA. The Four brand includes two variations, Four MaXed and the newer Four Loko… Four was developed by three alumni of Ohio State University: Chris Hunter, Jeff Wright, and Jaisen Freeman.[2] Four beverages have been the source of legal, ethical, and health concerns related to the marketing of these products to college students.

In other words, it’s a pre-packaged vodka Red Bull.

I hadn’t even heard of this drink prior to the start of the semester, but as people trickled back on campus, I started hearing a buzz about “some blackout drink in a can.” By October, Four Loko had taken hold of Boston University. Stores could barely keep it stocked. If you wanted Four Loko for the weekend, you had to get it on Thursday sometimes. I even heard of (several) people dressing as Four Loko for Halloween.


Shortly after Halloween, about 10 days ago, I received an email with the foreboding subject line: "A Message from the Director of Student Health Services and the Chief of Police” which included a diatribe about the health risks of Four Loko. Some greatest hits from the article include the following:

“There has been much fanfare recently about a fruity malt liquor called “Four Loko” and the attendant side effects which have been referred to as: “Blackout in a can.” Alcohol companies are targeting college students with these products without regard for your safety…

“Four Loko is one example of a caffeinated alcoholic beverage. The 23 ounce can of this drink contains an equivalent amount of alcohol to four 12 ounce beers and 156 milligrams of caffeine. The danger here is not just the alcohol content but rather, the combination of high amounts of alcohol and caffeine.

“When consumed in combination with alcohol, caffeine may produce the feeling of being “wide awake” despite the fact that one may be intoxicated on alcohol. The fact that the depressant effects of alcohol are mitigated by the caffeine may lead people to continue to drink alcohol and thereby become dangerously drunk.

We strongly recommend that you steer clear of these types of drinks and from mixing alcohol with other caffeine containing beverages. We also recommend that you avoid mixing other substances with alcohol as a general rule. Boston University is concerned for your personal safety and we hope that you will use this information to make wise health choice!

So let me get this straight. If I drink Four Loko… I’m going to be wide awake? I’m going to be trashed? And it costs three bucks a can? Done, done and done.

I couldn’t imagine why anyone on a college campus would want to drink this horrifyingly evil beverage!

But seriously – this is what BU sent out to every student in an effort to prevent people from binging on Four Loko. After the student body received this, all I heard in my classes was about how people were going to try it during the upcoming weekend. Mission Accomplished… oh wait… public health fail.

I’m not going to sit here and debate the merits of Four Loko or whether it should be banned – personally, I think it sucks. It’s not that much caffeine by volume and isn’t much worse than having a couple vodka Red Bulls. I tried the grape one and it tasted like Dimetapp. If I want to drink a vodka Red Bull/Monster/Amp/whatever, I’ll buy that and not a low rent version of it.

However, this underscores a much larger problem at BU and on college campuses across the country: the vilification of underage drinking. It’s an incredibly complicated issue and since being over in Ireland and seeing kids that are literally 15 trying to buy alcohol, I may have adjusted my opinion on shifting the drinking age from 21 to 18/19 to some degree.

The reality that Boston University administrators have to face is that people will drink underage regardless of what they do. No matter how much Officer Not-So-Friendly from the BUPD puts the fear of God/President Brown/Judicial Affairs into the matriculating class by dumping his container of confiscated fake-ID’s out in front of a crowded Metcalf Hall, people will drink.

The problem is that when students are not able to drink in public venues (i.e. if they are underage) they shotgun Four Loko in dorms and then go drink questionably mixed jungle juice at the Alpha Alpha Douche frat party down on Gardner Street only to stumble home drunkenly later. Nothing about that is safe. In fact, the “fear” created by BU heightens the safety risk with the aversion to contact the RA or hospital when someone has enjoyed their time a bit too much.

I don’t know all the facts of the Medical Amnesty debate, but I do recall a comment detailing Dean Elmore’s position of a “case-by-case” approach to punishing for drinking infractions that are made known through hospitalization, etc. What the hell does that even mean? By bringing your friend to the hospital, you *might* lose your scholarship? You *might* be put on academic probation? Maybe to school administrators, it sounds selfish to put your academic standing over someone’s life, but shame on BU Administration for putting people in that position to begin with.

BU needs to reevaluate its policy on alcohol. Harvard and MIT provide safe on-campus locations for organizations to have parties. At one point, they even subsidized these. Northeastern and Emerson have medical amnesty policies. I think it’s time BU rethought its autocratic approach of harsh punishments, paddy wagon raids of West Campus, and lack of a clear vision on the medical amnesty question.

Nov 11th, 2010

5 Comments to 'Loco for Four Loko: why BU admin should change the alcohol policy'

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  1. Natasha said,

    hey i think you should send this over to someone who might start thinking about this more and be able to change something, because it really is a problem how many awful consequences arise from their policies on curbing drinking.

  2. Dylan said,

    spot on. by the sounds of it all they’re doing is making you want to drink it more, and making the consequences or acting responsibly when (let’s be realistic, not if) somebody gets stooopid drunk. that said, i wish they had it over here in dublin!

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