Raising Alcohol Awareness

December 01, 2010

The university warns against consumption of alcoholic energy drinks.

As the FDA cracks down on Four Loko and other alcoholic energy drinks, university officials caution students against consuming these products.

Assistant Dean of Students Tara W. Pereira talked with George Washington Today about the health concerns regarding Four Loko and similar beverages and what the university is doing to educate students on their risks.

Q: What does the FDA action against Four Loko mean? Will people still be able to consume alcoholic energy drinks?
A: The Food and Drug Administration has determined that caffeine is “an unsafe food additive” when added to alcoholic beverages, and after today, Four Loko and other similar beverages –Joose, Core High Gravity, Moonshot and Max—can no longer be manufactured with added caffeine. The FDA decision comes after a yearlong review and in light of recent serious incidents and hospitalizations on college campuses involving these drinks.

But the risks of alcoholic energy drinks are unlikely to end entirely with the FDA action. We are concerned by stories of students stocking up on Four Loko over the past several weeks and by websites that offer recipes for making “home brews.” The idea of mixing alcohol and caffeine is not new. Red bull and vodka has been a popular—and dangerous—combination for years.

Q: How do alcoholic energy drinks affect the body?
A: The real danger is the combination of the depressant, alcohol, and the stimulant, caffeine, in such high quantities. The caffeine masks the body’s warning signs of consuming a dangerous quantity of alcohol. By the time those signs are triggered, people have often consumed far more than they typically would. The mixture makes it difficult for drinkers to pace themselves and know their limit.

Q: What are the warning signs of alcohol overconsumption?
A: Feeling tipsy, stumbling, slurred speech and vomiting. Blackouts and loss of consciousness can also result when someone consumes excessive amounts of alcohol.

Q: What is the university's policy regarding alcoholic energy drinks?
A: The university doesn’t have a policy that specifically mentions these drinks, but we are very concerned about the health and safety of students who consume them. Some of the most serious transports to the hospital result from consuming these drinks.

If students do choose to consume these drinks, they need to be very aware of the risks they pose. Students also need to know that the university’s Alcoholic Beverage Consumption and Distribution policy applies to these drinks, just as with other alcoholic beverages.

Q: What is the university doing to warn students about alcoholic energy drinks?
A: The Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education (CADE) has done a lot of outreach to the GW community. We have educated house staff so they can inform students. We have made statements to parents and the larger GW community and included extensive information on our website, via Facebook and Twitter, and in a Hatchet ad.

We are also encouraging students who have tried alcoholic energy drinks to share their experiences with friends and classmates, so students can learn of the dangers firsthand.

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