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Dangers of alcohol energy drinks discussed

They’re sweet like sodas, but pack the kick of caffeine. They also contain from 5 to 12 percent alcohol.

And they are hard to tell apart from energy drinks. But they’re alcohol energy drinks, an emerging problem with young people nationally as well as locally, Dr. Charles McCart, a Mercy Medical Center emergency room doctor, told the Roseburg City Council Monday.

Just the night before, McCart said, a 16-year-old came into the emergency room so intoxicated on the beverages he was biting and trying to spit on the EMTs and eventually had to be intubated because he couldn’t breathe.

“This kid, if he’d not been found, he would have died,” McCart said.

The idea of alcohol energy drinks came from university parties where students mix energy drinks such as Red Bull with vodka, said McCart and Patti LaFreniere, executive director of Umpqua Partners for a drug-free future.

“You could party longer and still have the effects of alcohol,” McCart said. “You become wide-awake drunks.”
McCart and LaFreniere claimed the industry targets the drinks to young people by marketing them in cans that look very similar to energy drink cans, and selling them for less than energy drinks. People younger than 21 may buy energy drinks legally, but can’t buy alcohol energy drinks.

Brand names for alcohol energy drinks include Sparks, Tilt and Charge. The drinks appear so similar to energy drinks that store clerks and parents may not be able to tell them apart. In some small stores, bar code scanners may not register alcohol energy drinks as alcoholic, McCart and LaFreniere said.

To help combat the problem, Umpqua Partners asked the council to lend its support to a public awareness campaign on the topic.

LaFreniere explained the group will be contacting local stores to ask them to participate. As part of the campaign, youth accompanied by adult chaperones will place stickers on alcohol energy drinks warning they are a dangerous mix of alcohol and an energy drink.

Local law enforcement and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission also will participate in the campaign.

“With the amount of alcohol abuse … and how serious it is, I certainly think this is something the council should be involved in,” City Council member Stacey Crowe said.

The council unanimously supported Umpqua Partners’ proposed public awareness campaign.

source:  News Review Today

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