By Rachel Stengel
College students should be wary of the caffeinated, alcoholic beverage Four Loko, according to concerned legislators.
The drink is available in a variety of fruit flavors and sold in colorful, flashy packaging. At first glance, it looks similar to many of the caffeinated energy drinks on the market, not to mention it’s affordable at just over $2 a can.
But legislators are concerned that the mix of caffeine and alcohol can lead to dangerous consequences. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, for instance, has urged the FDA to speed up its investigation into the drink.
A single can of Four Loko is 23.5 ounces with as much as 12 percent alcohol. In comparison, most beer contains 4-5 percent alcohol and a majority of malt liquors contain approximately 8 percent alcohol. Four Loko’s marketing strategy is primarily aimed toward college students and the young twenty-something age group.
Caffeine is a stimulant while alcohol is a depressant. These conflicting substances leave the drinker feeling alert yet relaxed. Some fear this state will lead to more drinking, placing individuals in dangerous situations. The problem is not simply the mix of caffeine and alcohol, but the way in which it is presented. Four Loko is only available in a 23.5 ounce can.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviewed 30 companies that manufactured caffeinated, alcoholic beverages last year. Phusion Projects LLC, the company that owns the Four Loko brand, submitted to the investigation and the product was labeled as “Generally Recognized as Safe.”
Four Loko’s website attempts to support this claim by stating that, “Four Loko contains less caffeine than a common tall (12 ounce) drip coffee. In fact, Four Loko contains less alcohol and less caffeine per volume than many prepackaged caffeinated distilled spirits approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.” Similar drinks include Sparks and Joose.
After collecting stories from a few anonymous Rider students, Four Loko could be defined as a dangerous substance. One source revealed that after one and a half cans of Four Loko, she remembered nothing from after the last sip until the next morning. Upon waking up, she discovered a new belly-button piercing which she has no memory of consenting to. She couldn’t remember how she got home the night before.
Another student said, “I believed that anything that mixed different types of alcohol and energy was awesome. Seriously, what could be better than a big, brightly colored can called Four Loko? I’ve never even taken Spanish and I know that can roughly be translated into ‘four crazy.’ Who wouldn’t want to drink that?”
This led to the student’s first and last encounter with Four Loko.
He described the taste as “a caffeinated soda [with] a sharp aftertaste — deliciously disgusting.” After drinking two and a half cans of the sickly sweet drink, he was surprised at how alert he felt.
“I still wasn’t feeling as drunk as I expected,” he said.
This new state of caffeinated attentiveness led him to drink more because he could not feel the true effects of the depressant on his body. An additional three beers later, he found himself in a state of alcohol-induced stupor as he plummeted down the front steps of a friend’s house.
“Let me tell you the one thing they don’t put on those cans,” the male said. “Throwing up Four Loko is the equivalent to spitting out acid that has an aftertaste that makes you twice as sick. It was like I made my own personal sickness. I call it the Four Loko virus and to this day I have never touched another can.”