Imagine you wake up sweating, heart beating a mile a minute, head pounding. You hear voices but you don’t recognize a single one. Phew, you think, just another bad dream. But when you open your eyes, reality sets in. You’re in the hospital. A nurse tells you, “We almost lost you last night, to severe alcohol poisoning. Your mothers on her way; she’s so worried about you.”
You wonder how. All you remember is having fun with your friends, just a regular Friday night. However, you drank something different last night, you drank the equivalent of 660 calories, 5 beers, 1 Red Bull, and 2 cups of coffee, at once. You drank what CBS News calls “legalized liquid cocaine,” known as a Four Loko.
Four Lokos have been on college campuses for months, and Bloomsburg University is no different, “I heard about Four Loko’s this summer when I was here for summer session, it was like the cool thing to drink,” said Jesse Lohr, a freshman at BU, “They looked sweet, just like an energy drink, but I saw what they can do and it’s bad news.” After seeing a few of his friends get in fights and risk getting in trouble with campus police, he and others are more cautious about drinking them.
The deceiving drink consists of “four” ingredients: alcohol and caffeine (guarana and taurine). It creates a sugary high along with an intoxicated state which is claimed to keep you “drunker longer.” The drink is sold for around $2.50 and has an alcohol content of 12% by volume, equivalent to about four beers. It sounds like any college partier’s dream. But, the side effects of this drink could come at a deadly cost.
An emergency room doctor at Lancaster General Hospital in Lancaster, Pa. recently said, “It’s a recipe for disaster because your body’s natural defense is to get sleepy and not want to drink, but in this case you’re tricking the body with the caffeine.” He stated this after he had taken care of over a dozen people who had been hospitalized after drinking Four Loko.
Another study performed by Wake Forest University found that those college students who mixed caffeine and alcohol were more likely to be involved in promiscuous sexual behavior, to be injured, and get into a car with a drunk driver. Jessica Gombar, a senior at Bloomsburg University sees these dangers, “It seems like most people who drink them act invincible, it’s like they have an overwhelming amount of energy, but at the same time don’t realize how drunk they are.”
It seems many forget that alcohol-related deaths are a reality among college students where binge drinking often occurs, and many are uneducated about the possible risks involved. “It’s scary to think these drinks could you land in the hospital, I just don’t understand why you would want to do something that could be so dangerous,” said Gombar.
Four Loko has been banned from Rampoo College in New Jersey after several students were hospitalized many with severe alcohol poisoning. A similar case occurred at Central Washington University where 9 students were hospitalized after drinking the notorious Four Loko.
In Pennsylvania, as William Rocky Brown III, a candidate for the state House of Representatives is fighting to get Four Loko and similar drinks off the PA shelves. He believes the drink is “having our young people black out” and feels it’s unsafe for the community.
The makers of Four Loko have began to face some scrutiny after these cases, yet continue to claim it is “safe” to drink in moderation. Four Loko is produced by a company called Phusion Products LLC, and was created by three Ohio State graduates. The company claims that product poses no health threat, and even reports to have performed a study that can prove it. However, it will take the Food and Drug Administration some time to work through the studies, “Let’s hope it won’t be too late,” said Gombar.
Chris Hunter, one of the Co-Founders of Four Loko recently told the New York Times that, “Alcohol misuse and abuse and under-age drinking are issues the industry faces and all of us would like to address, The singling out or banning of one product or category is not going to solve that. Consumer education is what’s going to do it.”
Whether or not the FDA will approve Phusion Products, the awareness of the dangers of an all-in-one caffeinated alcohol beverage is spreading. Just this week CBS News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post have reported stories on the reality of these drinks and the harm they are causing on college campuses. Parents are becoming aware, as many may have mistaken the Four Loko in their fridge as an Arizona Ice Tea.
Just as student Bloomsburg University student, Claire LoManto, was being interviewed she ironically received a text from her mom saying, “Don’t drink Four Loko or Joose.” Claire laughed replying, “I know, Mom,” only to receive a text back saying “they are so dangerous.”