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'Blackout in a can' made students sick

Oct. 25, 2010 at 7:10 PM

ELLENSBURG, Wash., Oct. 25 (UPI) -- Central Washington University officials announced an alcoholic drink nicknamed "blackout in a can" was responsible for sending nine students to the hospital.

CWU President James Guardino said at a news conference Monday students attending an Oct. 9 party at a Roslyn, Wash., home were not affected by drugs but by "Four Loko," a drink combining alcohol and caffeine, Seattle's KOMO-TV reported.

Professor Ken Briggs, chairman of the university's Department of Physical Education, School and Public Health, said Four Loko, also known as "blackout in a can" or "liquid cocaine," is one of the most popular of the 25 or more alcoholic energy drinks on the market.

Four Loko is produced by Phusion Projects LLC of Chicago.

"Once the blood-alcohol level reaches a certain level you can drop like a box of rocks," Briggs said.

Four Loko contains 12 percent alcohol, roughly twice the level of most beers or equal to the mid-range of most wines, and is available in 23.5-ounce cans, nearly twice the size of most beers. The beverage also has the caffeine contained in several shots of espresso.

Gaudino said the blood-alcohol levels of hospitalized students ranged from 0.123 percent to 0.35 percent. A blood-alcohol concentration of 0.3 percent is considered lethal.

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