Oct. 25) -- Four Loko, an alcoholic beverage referred to as "blackout in a can," is the culprit behind several hospitalizations after students at a Central Washington University party overdid it on the potent elixir.
The Oct. 8 house party, which counted around 50 youth -- many of them underage -- ended with nine partygoers being taken to the hospital with symptoms of life-threatening overdose or intoxication.
Police had initially suspected that illegal substances, rather than alcohol, were to blame for the flurry of hospitalizations. All but one of those hospitalized were women, yielding concerns over date-rape drugs.
"Everything was going fine, the music was playing, people were having fun -- and then all of a sudden all the girls were puking everywhere," Katelynn Allen, a student at the party, told KOMO News. "Girls were outside on their backs."
Those girls can thank Four Loko for their infirmity. The drink, which comes in several flavors, is one serious beverage -- and one that invites competitive imbibing sessions.
Trying to consume four of the brews is a popular goal among young drinkers, and one that usually ends early.
With 12 percent alcohol and an added caffeine boost, swilling three Loko beverages is akin to drinking 18 beers, according to estimates from Dr. Mike Reihart, a Pennsylvania doctor.
Indeed, the alcohol content of Four Loko is reflected in the blood alcohol levels of Roslyn, Wash., partygoers. They ranged from 0.12 percent to 0.35 percent.
The Food and Drug Administration is already keeping careful tabs on caffeinated alcoholic beverages like Four Loko. Earlier this year, the agency sent warning letters to several companies and is investigating the risks associated with a caffeine-alcohol combo.
But doctors are already raising a red flag about the precarious combination of caffeine (a stimulant) and alcohol (a depressant).
"When people combine the two, they tend to not feel the alcohol as much since the caffeine is keeping them more alert," Dr. Alissa Rumsey told the New York Daily News. "Yet when the caffeine wears off, then the person feels the full effects of the alcohol."