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Four Loko drink banned in Student Handbook

Published: Friday, November 5, 2010

Updated: Monday, February 28, 2011 21:02

11/05/10 - Following the lead of colleges nationwide, the University of Rhode Island has banned the possession of the popular beverage Four Loko and other stimulant-enhanced alcoholic beverages.Four Loko combines caffeine and other stimulants with alcohol to produce a potent yet highly popular alcoholic beverage that poses serious health risks for consumers. Because of the dangers associated with it, President David M. Dooley has approved a campus ban on the drink and others like it, along with a revision to the Student Handbook banning stimulant-enhanced alcoholic beverages.

Daniel Graney, director of Substance Abuse Prevention Services, said the issue had been a topic of discussion for the past two to three weeks, particularly because of the extent of media attention on Four Loko. The Alcohol Team on campus, which is comprised of staff, faculty and researchers, discussed recommending the ban because of the greater risk posed by such beverages. The ban means that no one is allowed to have stimulant-enhanced beverages on any URI campus even if they are over the age of 21.

"What makes it so harmful, particularly the brand Four Loko, is that when you combine a stimulant with alcohol, it decreases the sedated effects of alcohol. So you get both the buzz of alcohol and the rush of the stimulant," Graney said. "When you drink, you go up, get a buzz, and then go down again and start feeling sloppy and sluggish. But with these drinks you don't feel that, yet your alcohol levels continue to rise. One minute you can be bouncing of walls and then you're knocked out."

Health Educator and registered nurse Roger Jadosz said that caffeine has an increasing effect on the central nervous system, heart rate and blood pressure whereas alcohol, a depressant, tends to slow these systems down. A stimulant also reduces a person's sense of intoxication, he added.

"We've all heard the dangers of binge drinking," Jadosz said. "Taking five shots of tequila [and] having five cans of beer is considered binge drinking. One can of Four Loko is also considered binge drinking."

Jadosz said each can is equivalent to four or five beers and five to six cups of coffee.

Jadosz said that he organizes wellness clinics every Wednesday. This past Wednesday the topic was "Don't Get Hooked," which focused on topics including smoking, alcohol, coffee, internet and cell-phone use. Because of its recent popularity, Jadosz and his colleague Sheila Mitchell, a registered nurse at URI, brought along cans of Four Loko.

"We walked around asking students if they had tried the drink before and how it made them feel," Jadosz said.

Responses from the students included feeling numb and sick. Others reported having their heart race and knowing of other people drinking it who passed out. One student reported not being able to remember the night altogether, Jadosz said.

"This is not me, but the URI students themselves who are saying this. I don't think students are aware of how potent this is," he said. "If you have had too much beer, you're going to feel it. You're not going to feel good, you're going to feel sick. But with Four Loko, by the time you feel it, it is going to be too late."

Graney added, "I personally think it's a horrible drink. With an equivalent of approximately 4.7 beers in one 23.5 oz can, there is a higher concentration of alcohol. With the addition of caffeine, you don't feel the negative effects until it's almost too late. That's what scares me."

The URI Student Senate is inquiring about the methods and reasoning behind the issuing of the ban. It is particularly questioning the review process behind the sudden addition to the Student Handbook regarding the ban and whether student opinion was gathered or taken into consideration, Campus Affairs Chairman Anthony Sinapi said in an e-mail sent through the Student Senate listserve.

Furthermore, Student Senate is questioning why the university has chosen to ban Four Loko instead of educating the student body on the drink and the effects of mixing energy drinks and alcohol.

Student Senate President David Coates said he is really disappointed in the lack of communication amongst governance regarding the ban.

"Last spring we had a Students' Rights and Responsibilities Committee comprised of students, faculty and the Dean of Students that worked on making changes to the Student Handbook to be in place for the next two years," Coates said. "It seems unnecessary for there to be such a committee and procedure if the handbook will be changed as easily and quickly."

He said that it would have been more appropriate for the changes to be made by the specific committee and that a temporary ban should have been placed for the time being before the addition to the Student Handbook was made.

Regarding the ban, Graney said he does not think it will eliminate the use of stimulant-based alcoholic beverages because they are so "attractive, "but the university has to take a stand to protect not only the students but the community as a whole.

"Your college years are really the best years of your life. Party and drink responsibly - if you choose to do so," Jadosz said.

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