Four Lokos are an energizing alcoholic beverage that has become dangerously popular on college campuses around the world. Even small-town colleges are feeling the effects of the new “blackout in a can.” For example, Central Washington University recently had nine freshmen hospitalized after a party on Oct 8th. The freshmen had blood alcohol levels ranging from .12 to .35 (the legal intoxication limit is; .08) and all had consumed Four Loko, with a combination of other alcoholic beverages. The president of a New Jersey college: Ramapo has banned all its students, even those who are of the legal drinking age from drinking Four Lokos. A first offense penalty is a $200.00 fine. A student who consumed two Four Loko and shots of tequila in an hour had a blood alcohol level of .40, five times the legal limit. So what is so appealing about these potentially harmful cans?
At $2.50, a 23.5 oz can is a cheap, quick drunk. The can is extremely attractive with bright attractive colors. There are several different fruit flavors to appeal to kids, the flavors mask the taste of alcohol and there’s such a level of stimulants in one can that people have no idea how inebriated they really are. Effects of one can do not hit an individual right away. It usually takes about 15-20 minutes to feel the effects and before he or she knows it, they’re wasted. A recent article in Yale University’s Daily Local quotes a message from the beverage’s unofficial Facebook page that claims “Four Lokos are blackouts in a can and the end of my morals”, there are over 74,000 fans. The page even goes as far as to cautions its fans. “WARNING: You will remember absolutely nothing in the morning, probably acted like a slut, and possibly try to fight someone. It’s a Four Loko thing,”
It makes sense, college kids buying a strong alcoholic beverage for cheaper. A case of Four Lokos run about $ 25.00. If a student buys a case themselves they are set for a couple months of weekend drinking. Why wouldn’t they love the new drink? It helps them stay awake longer, gives them funny stories to tell their buddies, or hear from their buddies, it seems like a good time. But it’s all fun and games until something bad happens: someone is raped, beat up, hurt, or killed. Realistically, not everyone is going to wait until they are 21 years old to consume alcohol, some may even start before they reach college, so what is there to do to educate these children? When we drink our bodies natural reaction is to get sleepy, with Four Lokos the caffeine counteracts and tricks the body. So it begs the question: should Four Lokos be banned?
The Food and Drug Administration has never approved adding caffeine to alcohol, therefore why have Four Lokos reached our shelves to begin with? In July, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York asked the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to investigate whether the drink, who posses colorful and attractive packaging and flavors such as watermelon, blue raspberry, and lemon-lime are designed to attract an underage demographic. This insinuates that Four Lokos are targeted toward an inexperienced, uneducated demographic. There have been records of adults being hospitalized due to Four Lokos and if grown adults cannot control their alcohol intake when it comes to Four Lokos imagine the potential tragedies that could surface from 16-18 year olds drinking them.
Bloomsburg University senior Paul Hilliard, said things can get out of hand in the small town of Bloomsburg when students get their hands on Four Lokos. Seeing first hand, Hilliard knows what can occur when Four Lokos are involved. “Things get crazy, sometimes too crazy. It’s something new, it’s a new phenomenon and we haven’t learned our limits yet. Everyone’s is different.” Paul goes on to explain that when an individual starts drinking it takes a mistake or two to learn his or her limit, with Four Lokos he believes “it’s like learning how to drink safely all over again.” Hilliard himself has been a blackout victim of the drink. “I can usually tell when I’m reaching my limit, drunk enough to have fun, but not too drunk where I put myself and others in danger. These drinks, they sneak up on you and hit you like a truck.” Hilliard said the worst is seeing girls try to conquer one can, if not more. “These girls are small, a lot of the girls I see are underage, it’s scary, someone has to watch, babysit them and tell them to relax, they haven’t even reached 21 yet and they are ignoring the boundaries.” Hilliard said he knows Bloomsburg has a reputation as a party school, and he agrees. “We party pretty hard here, people might not think we can, but we can hang with the best of them. Four Lokos don’t make Bloomsburg any safer though, give it time, something bad will happen surrounding Four Lokos.” Hilliard, who lives with 5 other Bloomsburg University seniors, says him and his roommates never drink Four Lokos together. “Someone has to be responsible at the end of the night; someone has to be conscious to say ‘enough is enough’.”
Does Hilliard think Four Lokos should be banned? He raised a good point; Hilliard believes whenever something new is introduced there is a “craze for a short period of time”. He relates it to a new flavor of Pinnacle vodka. “When Pinnacle Whipped Cream came out you didn’t see a girl on the streets that didn’t have some concoction of the sweet vodka. After a month or two it’s still really popular but you don’t hear about it as much. I think that’ll happen with Four Lokos, something else just needs to come out.” Hilliard does think it may cause more problems with a younger demographic; “the cans look like Arizona Iced Tea, and they’re really cheap. Not everyone has enough money to buy a $10/bottle of vodka every week or two weeks so I can see why they’d spend the money on a case of Four Lokos.” Unfortunately, Hilliard doesn’t think banning Four Lokos will be the answer to the problems. “We’re going to drink, that’s not going to stop even if they ban Four Lokos, and some of us are still going to drink too much. Tragedies are still going to happen. Maybe we just need a little more education on what were putting in our bodies and how to consume them safely.”
Four Lokos have the alcohol content equally 5-6 beers in one 23.5-ounce can. Not taking into consideration the amount of caffeine (more than a cup) and other malt liquors that are added to the substance.