Known as a blackout in a can, Four Loko has been banned on some campuses because of the rising number of students who have been rushed to hospitals after blacking out.
The popular drink combines as much alcohol as a six-pack of beer and the equivalent of one cup of coffee, which has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ask the manufacturers of such products to reformulate them.
The fruity energy drinks, which contain 12 percent alcohol, started popping up on college campuses last spring. They’re an inexpensive way to get intoxicated, said Howard University junior Mahogany Jackson. “They make my body feel weightless and my mind peaceful,” Jackson said.
Samone Haggins, a sophomore at Howard, agrees. “They get me there fast,” Haggins said. “I be floating.” Haggins said she drinks Four Loko beverages, because they are cheap and good. The 23.5-ounce Four Loko comes in eight different flavors and sells for less than $3. Four Loko contains a mix of caffeine, taurine, guarana and alcohol. The use of these four ingredients is how the brand name “Four” came about.
Four Loko manufacturer Phusion Projects defended its product in a statement pointing to seven labels on the can warning of the drink’s contents, as well as calling attention to the need for identification to purchase it.
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is examining the safety of combining caffeine and alcohol and, as part of this investigation, is looking into about 40 different caffeinated alcoholic products, including our products,” the company said.
Howard junior Stephanie Simon describes the drink as 23.5-ounces of “liquid courage,” but admits that she sometimes gets a headache or stomachache after drinking a Four Loko. “I’m really glad that I stopped drinking Lokos now after hearing they are making people sick,” Simon said.
In October, nine Central Washington University students were rushed to the hospital after passing out during a party. At a recent music concert at the University of Rhode Island’s Ryan Center, medical personnel treated more than 30 people for alcohol-related illness or injury, including 11 who were taken to hospital, the Providence Journal reported.
Jackson expressed concern about drinking the beverage after learning of the Central Washington University incident. “My first question is are they 100 percent sure whether they got sick because of the Lokos,” Jackson asked, “because it could be due to something else?”
Some colleges and universities such as Ramapo College in New Jersey and University of Rhode Island have banned the beverage. The state of Michigan has also banned Four Loko. Washington, Utah and Oklahoma extended their bans to a wider pool of caffeinated alcoholic beverages, the Boston Globe reported.
Connecticut liquor wholesalers voluntarily agreed to suspend their shipment and deliveries of Four Loko and two similar beverages, Four Maxed and Joose. New York’s largest beer distributors agreed to stop delivering caffeinated alcoholic beverages to retailers by Dec. 10, reported the United Press International.
Phusion Projects stated its disappointment in the states’ plans, saying curbing alcohol abuse will not succeed by singling out a beverage category.
“Four Loko serves no purpose in my life, or society for that matter,” Howard senior Joshua Sloley said. “They are too strong to casually drink, and they are not hard enough to be considered hard liquor.”
“You cannot drink a Four Loko like you drink beer or wine,” Sloley said. “It’s a crash dummy drink for broke people who are trying to get wasted.”