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Four Loko is the most popular of the “blackout in a can” drinks. It is a caffeinated, alcoholic energy drink with malt liquor that has come under fire as colleges and universities across the nation have begun to see injuries and blackouts due to the drink’s use. The drink contains as much alcohol as several beers and as much caffeine as a strong cup of coffee. Experts say that the high levels of both alcohol and caffeine in the beverages create a "wide-awake drunk" that makes it difficult for people to realize how intoxicated they are and enables them to consume far more alcohol than they otherwise would without passing out. That puts them at increased risk for alcohol poisoning and engaging in such risky behavior as driving drunk.

After years of investigation, the FDA warned fourteen companies that the caffeine added to their malt alcoholic beverages is an “unsafe food additive.” In October 2010, Ramapo College in New Jersey, followed by Worcester State University and Boston College, banned the possession and consumption of Four Loko on campus after seventeen students from Ramapo were hospitalized. Earlier this month, over a dozen more colleges joined in the effort to inform their students about the Four Loko energy drinks. Washington, Michigan, Utah, and Oklahoma have already banned the beverages. Now the state of Massachusetts’ Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission is banning these drinks. The commission said it was issuing an emergency regulation barring the sale of the beverages. The ban went into effect immediately, and the beverages were to be removed from store shelves.

News of the ban has raised awareness of the dangers of mixing alcohol with caffeine, but has also led to mockery from college students who say they can make the drinks by mixing an energy drink with alcohol. There is even a YouTube video showing people how to make their own Four Loko by mixing an energy drink, caffeine tablets, Jolly Rancher candy and malt alcohol.

While there is little known medical evidence that the drinks are less safe than other alcoholic drinks, public health advocates say the drinks can make people feel more alert and able to handle tasks such as driving. A study found that students who combine caffeine and alcohol are more likely to suffer alcohol-related injuries than those drinking alcohol without caffeine.

States feel they need to act quickly on this issue because these drinks are increasing in popularity and these college kids consuming these beverages don’t understand how much alcohol they are consuming. Although this may be a step towards keeping our kids safe from these dangerous brews, the determined will always find a way to get their “high” and nothing less than another Prohibition will stop them.

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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