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Mother talks about underage drinking after Maryland teen's death

A woman whose son died after drinking an alcoholic energy drink says that parents need to be more aware of how their kids are spending their time. The car accident that caused his death happened just after he'd spent the day with friends, drinking a beverage that another adult had purchased for them.

The 13-year-old's parents said he typically spent Saturday afternoons hanging out with friends, eating fast food and shooting hoops at a park in Parkville, Maryland, so nothing seemed unusual when he texted his mother for a ride home. But when her fiancé went to pick up the boy and his friends, the teen said he felt sick. On the way home, he opened the front passenger door, fell out of the car and was hit by an SUV passing by. He died that evening at a hospital.

His parents discovered the boy had been drinking Four Loko, a caffeine-infused energy drink that an adult had purchased for him and his friends, who said the boy had already thrown up twice before getting into the car. The drinks have grown increasingly popular with underage drinkers for their high amounts of caffeine, sugar and alcohol. One drink can contain the equivalent of four beers.

The makers of Four Loko say on their website that the company exceeds federal labeling requirements and works to ensure its products stay out of the hands of minors. "Four Loko contains seven different warnings about the product's alcohol content and the necessity of an ID for purchase," the website says.

The person who supplied the drink to the boy and his friends hasn't been identified, but the boy's mother urged parents to communicate with their children about the dangers of underage drinking. She worries that many parents are in denial, as she was, about their habits and experimentation with alcohol.

Many parents also offer kids and their friends alcohol to score popularity points. But adults who encourage teens to drink could be held liable for injuries or fatalities that happen as a result, which won't make them seem very cool in the end.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Mother speaks out about underage drinking after son's death," Mary Gail Hare, Feb. 21, 2012

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