Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

4 Loko Frenzy Hits Campus

Local liquor stores report significant increases in sales of the popular alcoholic beverage Four Loko, and most students praise the product, which is known for its potentially dangerous combination of alcohol and caffeine.

Four Loko comes in a 23-ounce can that contains the equivalent of a cup of coffee and three beers. Comprised of alcohol, taurine, guarana and caffeine, the drink has both accelerating and depressing effects. A pack of four cans costs $2.50, boosting the appeal of the drink for students bound to a budget.

Four Loko has made its way to the Hilltop, with 60 registered locations selling Four Loko within five miles of Georgetown’s campus, 46 of which are located in Arlington, Va. Towne Wine & Liquors and Dixie Liquor, the closest liquor stores to Georgetown, have also begun selling the drink. Dixie has been granted an exemption from a ban on single beer sales from the local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions board. According to a Dixie employee, the liquor store’s sales of Four Loko are still at 100 percent. Employees from Towne Liquor were unavailable for comment.

The beverage has received rave reviews from many Georgetown students.

“I am personally a fan of Lokos,” Kristen Janiszewski (NHS ’11) said. “I think they taste great, which is probably why other people like them.”

Aneesh Gupta (COL ’11) agreed with Janiszewski about the great taste, and noticed its impact on parties.

“I’ve noticed that parties tend to be more intense when Four Loko is present, and they start getting wild earlier,” Gupta said. “But at the end of the day, it’s just another drink that we use to have fun. Nothing special.”

But the unique caffeinated qualities of the malt beverage, which has acquired the nickname “liquid cocaine,” have begun to worry medical professionals and community leaders alike. According to CBS News, attorney generals in states from Connecticut to California are all launching investigations into the potential health risks that arise from Four Loko consumption. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently sent letters prompting an investigation of the drink, and potentially calling for sanctions against the drink and its manufacturer, Phusion Projects, to the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission.

uch of the publicity and government actions are in response to the hospitalization of nine Central Washington University students last week due to excessive consumption of alcohol, including Four Loko. The incident spurred an upswing in press coverage of the dangers posed by caffeinated alcoholic beverages.

Central Washington University temporarily banned the drink on campus; New Jersey’s Ramapo College followed suit after 23 students were hospitalized after consuming multiple drinks including Four Loko. The University of Massachusetts’ director of Student Health Services sent a letter to all students, faculty and staff, encouraging students to avoid consuming caffeinated alcoholic energy drinks.

Phusion Projects defended the drink in the face of the negative publicity, stating on their website that Four Lokos are popular products with no inordinate health risks.

“Having coffee after a meal with wine, or consuming rum and cola, an Irish coffee or a Red Bull and vodka are all popular practices. Our products contain less alcohol than an average rum and cola, less alcohol and caffeine than an average Red Bull and vodka, and are comparable to having coffee after a meal with a couple glasses of wine,” Phusion Projects said on its website.

Despite the ongoing FDA investigation into the drink, many students do not view Four Loko as a threat. Janiszewski said she believes that the media frenzy surrounding the beverage is purely an effort to find a tangible scapegoat for college binge-drinking issues.

“Students end up in the [emergency room] all the time for health problems related to alcohol, and I think the sudden media attention to these occurrences is just hype targeting a specific, identifiable product,” she said.

Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service could not comment on whether they have seen any cases

involving Four Loko, but said that they will report any cases involving the product to the D.C. Department of Health.

“The D.C. Department of Health has asked all EMS agencies in the District of Columbia to report any cases involving consumption of Four Loko energy drinks. However, it is important to understand that all EMS agencies in the District routinely report abnormal cases to the DOH as required by state law,” Mary Jane Reen (COL ’11), GERMS director of public relations, said in an email.

Other cases reported to the DOH are ones involving hypothermia, heat-related illness or injury, and pediatric deaths.

Janiszewski said that the problem lies with the behavior of students, not with the product.

“Yes, caffeine is a stimulant, which masks your body’s natural reactions to alcohol so that your body doesn’t realize how much you’ve had, but in most cases, you’re still with it,” she said. “If after one can of Loko you can’t remember what you just drank, your friends are probably already calling you a SafeRides or [getting ready] to walk you home.”

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