Four Loko’s allure stays strong despite health warnings

From first glance, Four Loko appears to look like a can of AriZona Ice Tea — something fruity to quench your thirst on a sunny day. Flavors range from orange to blue raspberry, grape to watermelon. But upon closer inspection, one can of Four Loko seems to reveal a far more sinister and less than sweet purpose.

With an alcohol content of 12% and as much caffeine as two cups of coffee, it is an indisputable fact that Four Loko is in no way beneficial to one’s health — yet for many students, this fact does not deter one from drinking it.

Evidently, the buzz about Four Loko is not necessarily about why it is so harmful to the body, but rather why it is so popular among students.

Trey Ward, a senior in the College of Engineering, said “Drinking Four Loko with your friends is an extremely entertaining experience.”

Undeterred from the harmful effects Four Loko has on the body, Ward said that Four Loko provides countless humorous anecdotes that are too good to pass up. He also mentioned that each time he and a few friends tried it, the result has always left them with an interesting story to tell, and it is for this reason that Ward believes students continue to buy packs of Four Loko.

One unforgettable story concerning a wild barn-dance has Ward admitting that in spite of reports of alcohol poisoning he is still likely to purchase the beverage.

“It’s just interesting to see what’s going to happen,” Ward said. “In a lot of ways drinking it turns into a contest,” he said.

It is stories like these that have Rebecca Roach, Professor of Nutrition at the University, believing that educating students and making them aware of the harmful combination of alcohol and caffeine is vital to preventing hospitalization and alcohol poisoning.

“Four Loko combines a fairly high level of alcohol (a depressant) with a powerful stimulant — caffeine,” she said. “The combination can facilitate overconsumption of alcohol without realization.”

Roach explained that Four Loko is so harmful because the alcohol and caffeine content work to unravel each other’s purpose in the body.

“The depressant is supposed to get you to stop doing things — like drinking or driving. Theoretically, you should go to sleep or pass out — but the stimulant keeps you going and you may do dangerous things,” she said

Adan Miranda, senior in LAS, said that Four Loko may not be as dangerous as health officials are reporting — if drank in moderation.

“If you drink one can to pregame, you’re going to get buzzed, not ridiculous,” he said.

Unfortunately, Miranda notes that because students “try to drink it like regular beer” it is fairly easy to be rendered out of control by the night’s end.

“I’ve seen people, especially girls, who have gotten sick and throw up because they think they can drink two cans consecutively,” he said.

In addition to becoming sick, Miranda said that he has seen students’ reactions span from shaking and sweating to cramps and headaches while under the influence of more than one can of Four Loko.

Roach also claims that Four Loko lowers the body’s defenses, enabling dehydration and profuse sweating.

“You definitely sweat a lot, no question it has happened to me every time I’ve drank it,” he said.

By constantly depleting the body of its water supply, Roach explains that by continuing to drink Four Loko, the body is never able to keep up.

By dehydrating the drinker, the desire to continue drinking only increases and in turn “blacking out” becomes a typical result.

If this isn’t reason enough to consider ending consumption of such a harmful beverage, Ward provides one last reason: humiliation.

“Four Loko made my friend look like a fool at that barn-dance,” he said, laughing.