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Four Loko a cheap but potentially harmful buzz

Graphic by Felipe Lobon

From compromising Facebook photo albums to house parties across Miami, the new brew can be spotted in a large, colorful can with the words “Four Loko” scrawled across. But with an undisclosed amount of caffeine and a variety of other energy drink ingredients- taurine, guarana and wormwood (the active ingredient in absinthe)- you’d be ‘loko’ to drink one of these.

The caffeinated alcoholic malt beverage recently became popular in Miami because of its cheap price and reputation. Those who drink Four Loko guarantee inebriation for an average-sized person with a single can. Costing about $3 per can, the 24-ounce caffeine cocktail contains 12 percent alcohol content, making it 24-proof. In plain words, a person drinking Four Loko consumes the equivalent of three beers in one successive round for under $5.

“I felt worse after drinking it,” junior Guillermo de La Puente said. “The hangover feeling lasted three days. I couldn’t even enjoy eating.”

De La Puente, who drank one and a half cans of Four Loko, says his friend had only a little more and was passed out for two hours at a concert.

“My friend drank two cans and I drank one and a half,” De La Puente said. “That half was the difference between life and death.”

In addition, no other beer is sold in gas stations or small liquor stores containing that much alcohol in one can. Common misconceptions that Smirnoff Ice and Bacardi Silver, or other “alco-pops” are similar beverages lead consumers to purchase Four Loko and similar products because of its “fad status.”

Though this may sound like a frat party fantasy, psychologists urge consumers to stick to their Natural Ice if a cheap buzz is what they’re after. The concern isn’t so much about the alcohol content alone as it is about the excess of energy drink chemicals. Though the dangers of mixing caffeine and alcohol are not news to physicians, many students in the University of Miami are oblivious to the health risks it poses.

According to a 2008 article in Time Magazine, the buzz achieved by Four Loko and all other alcoholic energy drinks gives the false sensation of alertness. They trick the mind into believing it’s sober. Therefore, drinking one guarantees motor skill impairment, though the brain may not process it. The fact that a person doesn’t feel drunk until after consuming the whole drink presents a massive safety risk.

The drink’s list of ingredients masks the taste of alcohol in 660 calories- for the most part. Available in eight fruity flavors, the beverage is still described by most people as “disgusting.”

“The watermelon flavor is the only one that tastes decent,” sophomore Daniella Carucci said.

The selection of flavors, such as lemonade, blueberry and orange, sound harmless and appealing to female and/or inexperienced drinkers. The promise that you can get drunk and party all night because of the caffeine makes it especially attractive to younger consumers.

“I usually see Four Loko in the hands of people who don’t look or act over 21,” junior Ashley Valdes said. “I’m sure the fact they’re probably not used to so much alcohol would yield messy results.”

Nicolette Roque may be contacted at nroque@themiamihurricane.com.

September 22, 2010

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Nicolette Roque

Assistant News Editor


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