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  1. Terrapinzflyer
    In September, shortly after I turned 21, I made my first lawful alcohol purchase. My order was nothing out of the ordinary for a college student. I bought a six-pack of beer and a cheap bottle of vodka to share with some friends over the course of Friday night. As I waited in line, I noticed that the girl ahead of me in the queue – college-aged – was buying only one item. It looked to be a tall can of soda. I assumed it was an energy drink, but thought it odd that someone would come into a liquor store for just that. After news stories began flooding in later in the month about a dangerous alcoholic beverage taking U.S. colleges by storm, I realized it was my first encounter with “Four Loko.”

    Although the alcoholic energy drink first hit shelves several years ago, it’s come to prominence only recently. However, due to the widely publicized news coverage of illness and injury related to Four Loko, its fast track to fame may be coming to a legal halt. Don’t be surprised if Four Loko’s highly concentrated, intoxicating ingredients are curbed or outlawed sometime in the near future. Several state attorneys general have queried the Food and Drug Administration about banning the 23.5 oz. beverage nationwide including those in Washington, New York and New Jersey.

    Four Loko’s main ingredients include guarana, which is a natural, yet very strong caffeine, found in South America. In addition, the beverage contains the caffeine ordinarily found in coffee. Its recipe also boasts taurine, which is an amino acid thought to enhance athletic performance. Many energy drinks contain it. However, the drink’s most controversial ingredient is the high concentration of alcohol. At between 11 and 12 percent, this little inexpensive drink packs a big punch. Less than $3 per can, it’s a binge at a bargain.

    The manager at Liquors 44 in Hadley told me he’s sold more than 1000 of each Four Loko’s nine flavors since the store began carrying the product a few months ago.

    Since it only takes one of these potent drinks to become inebriated regardless of the imbiber’s sex, the beverage has lethal potential. At Central Washington University last month, several students consumed so much of it that their blood alcohol levels were in the fatal range.

    On Four Loko’s Facebook fan page (with which I have mutual underage friends), young drinkers post their experiences. Many comments provide testimony to the drink’s “blackout” effect, which many seem to believe is one of the product’s selling points. However, one post struck me as very chilling. “FOUR LOKOS SHUD BE ILLEGAL.” Underneath, the poster elaborated, “I almost died the first time i drank em hahaha and im never doin that again.”

    Guzzling just two of these 23.5 ounce intoxicants is the equivalent of chugging 12 beers. Dr. Martha Rosenthal, a professor of physiology and neuroscience at Florida Gulf Coast University, doesn’t recommend doing this. “So if you chug 12 beers at once (or two Four Lokos), your body needs to essentially metabolize 12 hours’ worth right away. It can’t do this, so the alcohol builds up in your bloodstream and does nasty things like shutting down the respiratory centers of your brain.”

    A 2006 Wake Forest University study put the alcohol and energy drink combination to the test. Of the 4,271 North Carolina college students who participated in the study, 697 reported mixing alcohol with an energy drink in the past 30 days. The results were alarming. Students who mixed the two beverages were more likely to sexually assault or be sexually assaulted. They were more likely to ride in a car with an intoxicated driver. They were more likely to be injured and receive medical treatment.

    So what is a viable solution to stopping the Four Loko toxic phenomenon? Banning it on individual campuses, which many college administrators nationwide have already done, will not stop students from buying and consuming the beverage off-campus. The drink’s infamy has only added to its attractiveness. The Wake Forest study suggests adding warning labels to energy drinks noting the danger of mixing them with alcohol. However, the warning/information label nudge almost always fails. (Think of the caloric content printed on Oreos packages that you pay no mind to)

    Four Loko is not like other alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, or even hard liquor in the sense that it does not make consumers feel as drunk as their blood alcohol level actually would show. This can lead to dangerous over-consumption. Furthermore, because those who drink Four Loko aren’t fully aware of their intoxication, they often believe they can drive. The liability of consuming this drink trumps personal responsibility in this case. The most important thing to remember is that Four Loko is the face of a larger issue, and because of its enormous sales and popularity, if it is banned as an individual product, surely an imitation(s) will fill its void. Therefore, the FDA should act to ban the manufacturing and sale of all energy-alcoholic beverages.

    College students and those even younger will no doubt continue to mix their own questionable concoctions: Red Bull and vodka, for example. However, they do not need the assistance of the alcohol industry creating the most dangerous recipes they can think of, and selling them in one cheap, easily accessible can.

    Shane Cronin is a Collegian columnist.

    By: Shane Cronin
    November 04, 2010



  1. Terrapinzflyer
    I’m gonna have my Loko and drink it too

    Four Loko is a popular alcoholic drink commonly referred to as “liquid cocaine” or “blackout in a can.” The 23.5 oz. canned beverage contains 12 percent alcohol by volume and the “Four” in the name suggests the four other main ingredients; caffeine, taurine, guarana and alcohol which weigh in at 660 calories together. People think that the combination of alcohol and caffeine in the drink is so unsafe that it warrants FDA investigation and perhaps a complete ban on the product. I believe this idea is absurd; and Phusion Projects, the company that makes Four Loko, should not have to suffer as a result of stupidity of a few consumers.

    The major concern regarding this drink is the fact that it contains both a depressant and a stimulant; which counteract one another. The caffeine masks the effects of the alcohol until the caffeine wears off. In simple terms, people continue to drink because they don’t feel the effects of the alcohol until much later.

    As a bartender I know that one of the most popular drinks sold at the bar is Red Bull and vodka. Sure, I have to make the extra effort to mix two things together – but what the cocktail contains isn’t much different from the contents of Four Loko. Furthermore, energy drinks paired with alcohol are nothing new, especially among college students who want to let loose quickly and party all night long. There are currently similar products on the market to feed this demand, for example, Joos, Sparks and Rockstar and Vodka.

    But if they can’t buy it in a can, they’ll just mix it themselves. PJ (party juice), also known as “jungle juice” or “drank,” is quite regularly served at frat parties and other house parties. This sort of drink is commonly made using two gallons of Hawaiian Punch for every one bottle of Everclear or Deisel (150-190 proof) and a case of energy drinks.

    Clearly every version of this concoction differs slightly but all have the same intention of masking the taste of alcohol while getting you inebriated and keeping you wired on caffeine so you can party longer.

    All too often we point fingers at others, trying to blame a larger entity for our own stupidity. We blame fast food restaurants for making us fat, we blame headphone companies for damaging our ears, and now, Four Loko is the unfortunate company being blamed for irresponsible college kids who can’t handle their alcohol and whine and complain about it. As an individual, you are responsible for what you choose to put in your body. If you are unsure as to what a product contains and you have any concerns regarding that product, you should look at the nutrition facts on the back of the can before you ingest it.

    Four Loko should not be banned simply because people aren’t using it properly. If I smack someone across the back of their head with a book and it catches on and other people start doing it, do books become unsafe? I’m sick of being babied by administrations telling me what I can and can not do or possess. They are slowly stripping down our right to make our own decisions because they think they know what is best for us. I’m a grown independent women capable of making my own decisions, and if I choose to drink a Four Loko, that should be up to me.

    The fact is, it is an alcoholic drink, which in the United States means you must be 21-years-old in order to purchase it. In the U.S. you are considered an adult at the age of 18, and then have three extra years to mature before you are allowed to purchase and drink alcohol. By that time, you should be smart enough to know how you react to alcohol, and if you don’t, you’ll have to deal with the repercussions – and that’s no ones problem but you’re own.

    The reason it is so popular amongst college kids is very simple. It is economically practical; it has a variety of nine fruity flavors that are appealing to those who may not like the taste of beer or harder alcohol and it gets you drunk quickly and allows you to feel more awake. To us, it makes more sense to throw down five bucks for a couple of cans that will last the weekend than to purchase a 30 dollar bottle of alcohol, some cartons of juice of soda to mix it with, some ice and don’t forget the red solo cup! Clearly Phusion Projects has found a product that suits our desires, and with one can, you’re well on your way to one hell of a night.

    Let’s face it: College kids drink to get drunk. Four Loko is not a drink that you serve in a wine glass at a fancy dinner party, nor is it a drink you play pong with. Each beverage has its purpose and the purpose of Four Loko’s is to get you “nice” quickly, and as far as I’m concerned, the drink meets its job expectations.

    Stacey Linehan is a Collegian columnist.
    By: Stacy Linehan
    November 04, 2010

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