Byline: Pat Wingert
"Blackout in a can." That's what kids call the fruity caffeinated-alcohol drinks that offer a cheap, fast way to get drunk and party all night. As safety concerns grow, so does the pressure to pull these potent products from store shelves. Oklahoma, Washington, Utah, and Michigan recently banned the drinks. Beverage retailers in Indiana are lobbying their state to do the same; Pennsylvania has asked state-run liquor stores to voluntarily stop selling them. Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on the FDA to finish its yearlong investigation into the drinks' safety.
While there have always been drinks that mix caffeine and alcohol, health experts say these pre-mixed cocktails are much more dangerous than rum and Coke or even Red Bull and vodka. The cans may be the size of two 12-ounce beers, but they deliver a much stronger punch. "Some, like Four Loko, are 12 percent alcohol and have something in the range of 200mg of caffeine," says Bruce Goldberger, a forensic toxicologist at the University of Florida. "That's the equivalent of five to six beers and four to five colas in one can." A 110-pound woman who downs a single can will have a blood-alcohol level twice the national intoxication standard, he says.
Brightly packaged and fruit-flavored, the beverages resemble sports drinks and attract young customers. They're also big …