The term “liquid cocaine” has been used to describe one of the newest, best selling alcoholic products in the country.
Made with the dietary supplements guarana and taurine, caf¬feine and 12 percent alcohol, the drink Four Loko is a 23.5 ounce can with over 600 calories and 60 grams of sugar that is the equivalent to the consumption of three full beers.
Alongside other alcoholic energy drinks such as Joose and Sparks, Four Loko is nationally ranked fourth in sales in all 7-Eleven convenience stores, accord¬ing to The Wall Street Jour¬nal. Four Loko is becoming a hot commodity in the night life of young adults and has even been the theme for many college parties and night clubs.
“Every time I go out, I see them,” said TJC sophomore Calvin Scott.
Hype surrounding the malt liquor bever¬age has hit the Internet as well. Nearly 50 videos on http://www.youtube.com claim to be the official song of Four Loko including a song by Texas rapper Que titled “Gone Off That Loco,” with lyrics such as “All I need is one and I’m on all night,” and Atlanta rapper Ricosuave’s anthem “So Loko” where he states, “I know Jesus turned water into wine, but he would have turned it into Four Loko at a party of mine.”
While young adults are running wild over the multi-colored cans on shelves everywhere, many people are taking a stand against the drink and preaching the dangers that come with consuming a beverage high in caffeine and alcohol. Pennsylvania’s state repre¬sentative Rev. William Rocky Brown referred to the beverage as “legalized liquid cocaine” and the drinks have also been referred to as “blackout in a can.” A study at Wake Forest University done last year found that college students who combine alcohol and caffeine are more likely to suffer alcohol-related injuries than students who drink only alcohol.
“Most energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine. Drinking these consistently can cause a rise in a person’s blood pressure and increase heart issues and even cause heart palpitations,” said Char¬lene Shreder, the director of Sister Community Council on Al¬cohol and Drug Abuse. “If they’re drinking multiple drinks, it can cause a heart to skip a beat or to beat wildly, which is caused by the energy drinks.”
Since alcohol and caffeine are both diuretics, they may both cause severe de¬hydration. Everyone is different and effects may vary depending on the individual. Anyone taking medi¬cation while drinking Loko’s may have dif¬ferent, possibly se¬vere, effects.
While alcohol is a depressant, caf¬feine has the oppo¬site effect on the body. The energy drink factor in the substance works to in¬crease the effects the alco¬hol is having on the body and can even begin to blur the lines between how in¬toxicated the drink is making an individual feel, and how in¬toxicated that person actually is.
“They aren’t going to just feel impaired, they are going to feel wide awake and impaired. It’s only going to leave them either wanting to drink more, or wanting to do other, worse things,” said TJC sophomore Brad Stenberg.
Jaisen Freeman, a founder of Four Loko drinks, defended his product in an article published at Cornell University.
“Combining caffeine, sugar, and alcohol is not new or novel; people have safely enjoyed this practice for years. We are proud of the work we do to ensure our products are used properly and only by adults of legal drinking age. But we can’t do it alone,” Free¬man was quoted as saying.
Drinks such as Red Bull mixed with Vodka and Jae¬ger combined with the energy drink Monster can be found on drink menus all over the world, but many young drinkers prefer Four Loko because of its sweet, fruity taste that makes it easier than most alcoholic drinks to consume.
“Most drinks are strong, and with all the fruit flavor, it kind of helps you out,” said Kel¬lie, one TJC student who did not want her last name pub¬lished because she is underage.
Factoring a candy-like fla¬vor in a can available in over nine different fruity flavors and with a price ranging anywhere between $2 to $3 dollars, many concerned adults believe that Four Loko reps are specifically targeting the younger demo¬graphic without fully emphasiz¬ing the precautions one should take before consuming such a drink.
“The reason these drinks are so popular is because the mak¬ers market them specifically to young groups. They make them appear cool and fun, which is at¬tracting young people. Plus the fact that their friends are doing it, it just adds to the appeal,” said Shreder.
“I’m attracted by the can, the taste, and how it makes me feel,” said Tiara, another under¬age TJC student who did not want her last name mentioned. “It makes me feel so good, and it relieves stress.”
Other activists hope to see a more hands-on approach to changes being made to the mar¬keting of Four Loko beverages.
“I don’t ever see a total ban on Four Loko, but I do think as people become more concerned, they will want it to be more controlled. We will probably see less marketing to younger adults, but I do not see a total ban. However, I really do hope to see some sort of monitoring on these types of drinks,” said Shreder.