Drinking alcohol, undoubtedly, has been part of the college experience since way before our time. Whether it’s one drink at a fraternity party your freshman year or it’s how you’ve continued to spend your Saturday nights throughout senior year, alcohol has become sort of a rite of passage for many during the college experience. I attend the University of Iowa, a school that deems itself to be one of the top 10 party schools. Now, whether we live up to that title or not is subjective, but what I can tell you is this year’s drinking culture seems to have become a little bit more creative than previous ones.
Earlier in the school year, Four Loko—known as “blackout in a can”—made national headlines for hospitalizing students across the country. Critics say these drinks are dangerous and the Federal Drug Administration agrees. When the FDA asked for the producers of certain caffeinated beverages, including Phusion Projects, the makers of Four Loko, to remove caffeine from their drinks in November, their reasoning was because a food additive such as caffeine is generally recognized as unsafe when combined with alcohol. When surveyed, 43 out of 75 collegiettes™ said they have tried Four Loko.
As the school year approaches an end, we thought it was only appropriate to review which alcoholic beverages collegiettes™ have been drinking this year because it seems every now and then another flavored drink, in an ever larger can, is a college student’s drink of choice. After surveying 75 collegiettes™ from colleges across the country, we were able to get the scoop on just how popular these drinks are on college campuses, hear their stories about their own experiences, and talk to an expert to find out the truth about their dangers.
The drink: Four Loko
Percent of collegiettes™ who have tried it: 57
What is it? A flavored malt beverage (a term to describe flavored beer with higher alcohol content) that is now available in a 23.5 ounce can with 12 percent alcohol.
Where is it now? After being banned from 20 states, the FDA mandated the producers extract caffeine from it or else they would have to discontinue distribution completely. Now the beverage is caffeine-free along with two other ingredients, guarana and taurine, which were included in the original beverage. However, when Googled online, some say the original drink can be purchased on Craigslist and “the black market.”
The controversy: The original version was a popular beverage for underage drinkers first semester. The drink was the alleged cause of sending nine underage students at Central Washington University to the hospital. Critics said its original version was comparable to three cups of coffee and three cans of beer in just one can.
A collegiette’s™ tale: “My friends and I all had a Four Loko one night before going out. I drank the entire thing without a problem, and felt just a little drunk and a little jittery. But both of my friends chugged the last 1/4 of their can and ended up puking.”— Jessica*, a senior at University of Connecticut
Expert opinion: “12 percent is really high,” says Dennis Thombs, a Social and Behavioral Science professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. “The typical American beer like Budweiser is only 4.5 percent and 5 percent, 12 percent [is] a really high alcohol content.”
The drink: Whipped Lightning, also known as Whipahol
What is it? Alcohol-infused whipped cream. The ingredients include grain alcohol, sugar, heavy cream, natural & artificial flavors and sometimes coloring, according to the Chief Whipalogist, Paul Urbanowicz. The alcohol dessert is available in 10 flavors, and contains an average 33.5 liquor proof in a 375-milliliter can.
Where is it now? Whipped Lightning is currently only available in 16 states. According to the website, Nevada is the next state where the concoction will be sold.
The controversy: The FDA has not taken action towards the concoction yet; however, it is a food additive mixed with alcohol, which is generally unsafe according to the FDA, and was the reasoning drinks like Four Loko and JOOSE had to remove caffeine. However, according to the Whipped Lightning website, “Whipahol is not a food product and is not subject to FDA labeling requirements; it is an alcoholic beverage.”
Percent of collegiettes™ who have tried it: 22
A collegiette’s™ tale: “My roommate and I tried the alcoholic whipped cream and the vodka flavor seriously outweighed the whipped cream taste. And it had a really high level of alcohol, so after one small squirt of whipped cream you actually start to feel the alcohol. Sugar addicts, be warned! Don't consume a lot of that!” —Katherine*, a sophomore at Ohio State University
Expert Opinion: “The concern in the alcohol research world with those types of products, whipped cream and Jell-O shots, is it’s an attempt to get underage people and young kids to try alcohol in some way,” Thombs says. “If it has alcohol, it can and will be misused in some way.”
The drink: JOOSE
What is it? A flavored malt beverage that is now available in a 23.5-ounce can with 12 percent alcohol content or a 12-ounce bottle with 9.9 alcohol content depending on the flavor.
Where is it now? JOOSE was one of the caffeinated alcoholic beverages that the FDA mandated to remove the caffeine from. Even though it’s now available without the caffeine JOOSE has been banned from six states.
The controversy: The original version was criticized, just like Four Loko, for the mix of high alcohol content and caffeine.
Percent of collegiettes™ who have tried it: 21
A collegiette’s™ tale: “I had only half of a JOOSE one night. I went to a party thinking that I would remain fairly sober the entire time and that everything would be fine. I woke up the next morning not even remembering how I got home, turns out I had blacked out at the party. I know Joose was the only thing I had, since all of my friends were with me the entire night and they verified I had drank nothing else. Those things are potent, and sneak up on you when you least expect it! Think twice before drinking one!” — Laura*, a sophomore at Virginia Tech University
Expert Opinion: As Thombs said before about Four Loko, 12 percent is an extremely high alcohol content. It’s comparable to three beers in one can. While it is safer without the caffeine, Thombs said, students could still add their own Redbull or Monster to the beverage. “When mixing alcohol with caffeine the caffeine overcomes sedation,” Thombs says. “Our lab studies show that even though you are more wide awake, the caffeine does not counteract behavioral impairments such as motor coordination and balance.”