FCKD UP is the name of the energy drink that is said to have left 14 year-old Athena Gervais unable to save herself.
The girl was with a group of friends last week drinking the concoction when she apparently was left behind, then reported missing, and eventually found in a stream behind her high school in Fabreville, a suburb of Montreal.
A toxicology report will soon determine if Gervais had been drinking but investigators have said alcohol may have been a factor in her death.
The beverage is available in grocery stores and at corner shops in Quebec as it comes just under the designation of an alcoholic drink.
Alcoholic beverages of 12 per cent are restricted to sales in government controlled outlets, to people over the age of 18, in the province of Quebec.
At 11.9 per cent alcohol, FCKD UP was more widely distributed, though still restricted to those over 18.
Hubert Sacy has been sounding the alarm over these new drinks and the dire consequences teens are suffering as a result of consuming them.
He warned a death was inevitable as recently as last week.
Sacy is the director general of Educ’alcool, the non-profit group that works to educate Quebecers about the power of alcohol.
“Moderation is always in good taste” is their motto.
But moderation is not even possible with the way these new concoctions are created, packaged and marketed.
Sacy explains the danger in this new trend, with a drink known as “Four Loco” in the United States and FCKD UP in Quebec, lies in the toxic combination of alcohol, stimulants and lots of sugar.
“So they have created a malt-based alcoholic drink with 11.9 per cent alcohol per volume, which is the equivalent of wine in fact, and the taste and the effect of alcohol is covered here by guarana, which is a stimulant, and a huge quantity of sugar, which is the equivalent of 660 calories of sugar, or 13 spoons,” he says.
“So the added product covers the taste of alcohol, because as you know young people don’t like the taste of alcohol, when you cover this taste with a lot of sugar, then they like it. And the effect of alcohol, because when someone drinks a little bit too much our body sends us signals: we speak slower, we move, our motoricity is changed, our vision is different and therefore we stop drinking because our body is telling us, “Hey, you’ve got enough!” While the stimulants and the sugar inside those drinks covers the effect and the signals that your body is sending you and therefore you drink too much before you even are aware of how much you’re drinking.”
Added to this masquerading effect is the amount young people are drinking.
“These products are put in cans that contain the equivalent of four standard drinks, and this makes young people drink them quickly, they drink a lot, and you know after two cans you’ve already reached the level of eight standard drinks, which is the level of dangerous drinking, the equivalent of one and a half bottles of wine, so it’s huge, it’s immense!” Sacy says.
Over the last six months there’s been a sharp increase in young people, particularly minors, being brought to emergency rooms in various states of alcoholic coma.
Sacy says himself and emergency workers have been trying to make people aware of what is happening.
“We shouldn’t wait until somebody dies before we do something” he said in warning about the consequences.
“But unfortunately nothing has been done.”
Sacy says the federal government’s Health Canada website advises against mixing alcohol with energy drinks, that it is dangerous, yet, he says the same government allows producers to do exactly that.
“If you can’t count on your own government to protect you, there’s something wrong here.” Sacy says.
“the principle of precaution must be applied everywhere on planet earth”
While not a “prohibitionist” Sacy wants the government to put a hold on the sales of these drinks until further research can establish in what quantity, and where they should be available, if at all.
Apply the principle of precaution Sacy says, and not just in Canada, but everywhere these drinks are available.
In the meantime, the Montreal-based company, Geloso, that makes FCKD UP, announced this morning it has ceased production and taken the product off its web site.
Several shops and grocery chains had already stopped selling the cans as well.
Radio hotline shows were lighting up with callers throughout the day in Montreal, looking for someone to blame, including the adolescent friends who left Athena Gervais alone in that inebriated condition.
But as other callers chided, they were all only kids, “they didn’t know any better”, as one caller said, with great empathy.
After the recorded interview Hubert Sacy said he has “never been so sad to do interviews”, and never been so sad to be right.