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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

You can have it your way, but don’t get Loko

Published: November 5, 2010
Section: Opinions

Don’t judge me here, but one of my favorite activities has always been people-watching.

You know, sitting down and observing those around you.

Quietly judging everything about them from their hair, to their shoes to their interactions with their friends (lovers? siblings??).

Although every day is a great day for people-watching, once a year, a holiday comes around that serves as the Mecca for people-watchers everywhere: Halloween.

This Halloween, I was not disappointed.

Brandeis was filled with Sarah Palins, nerds, oil spills, and tons of other old and new costumes. In my people-watching induced revelry, one costume in particular caught my eye.

Among the sea of sexy doctors, sexy nurses, sexy inmates, sexy witches, sexy elephants, sexy Disney princesses, sexy babies and all of the other standbys, I saw a large group of students dressed up like beverages. More specifically, Four Lokos.

Now some of you—who live under rocks—might be wondering, Four Loko? What’s that?!

According to their website, Four Loko is a malt beverage that was introduced to the market in August of 2008. It has either six or twelve percent ABV (alcohol by volume) depending on state regulations—it’s twelve in Massachussets. It is sold in 23.5-ounce cans and is produced in eight flavors: orange, fruit punch, lemonade, cranberry lemonade, grape, watermelon, blue raspberry and lemon lime.

Four Loko has the “same alcohol content as wine and some craft beers, and far less alcohol by volume than hard liquor” and a can of Four Loko has “roughly the same amount of caffeine as a tall Starbucks coffee.”

Don’t get what all of the fuss is about?

Sounds legit, right?

As fascinating as their website is, I am much more interested in what the people are saying about Four Loko. For this information, I will turn to my—and every twelve-year-old boy’s—favorite source:

One definition of Four Loko on Urban Dictionary informs readers that results of consumption are often compared to those of “snorting a small mountain of cocaine.” Another says that Four Loko is so-named, not because of the four main ingredients—caffeine, taurine, guarana and alcohol—but rather the four stages of intoxication it puts upon users from “Stage 1: Tipsy (loud, might stumble, laugh)” to “Stage 4:Black Out (no ability to speak, vomiting…memory loss).” A third definition reads simply: “blackout in a can.”

When asked about Four Loko in an e-mail correspondence, a Brandeis first-year who would prefer to remain anonymous said that “Four Loko is the king of s#!%-faced. Having a Four Loko (or two) is like having someone whisper sweet nothings in your ear while simultaneously kicking you in the shins. I do not recommend it. I mean, if I were currently intoxicated with Loko, I would probably recommend it. But post-Loko, no. It messes you up.”

After reading these descriptions I am simultaneously horrified and fascinated. I understand what Four Loko is and what it does to consumers and I am left with one resounding question:


Why do otherwise rational people throw caution to the wind and drink something called “blackout in a can?!”

It seems to me that this obsession with Four Loko can be tied back to the same reason that there is such an issue with binge drinking on college campuses. Americans—more specifically American college students—make the correlation between level of intoxication and level of enjoyment.

In short, we think that the drunker you are, the more fun you’re having—without taking into account frivolous things like alcohol poisoning.

This fixation has brought to us Four Loko, the quickest and cheapest way to get as drunk as possible.

A common response to this problem on college campuses has been to ban the beverage and schools including the University of Rhode Island and Ramapo College in New Jersey have done just that.

However, I don’t think that this will help the problem at hand.

The same first-year quoted above also said that “a lot of people drink Four Loko so that they can say they’ve drank Four Loko. But then there’s the fact that it makes you feel—at least momentarily—freaking awesome. I mean, you’ve got the energy associated with a Red Bull and the loose-jawed swag associated with four shots of vodka, all of which is hidden under the sweetness of a Fanta.”

Who can argue with that?

Who doesn’t want to feel “freaking awesome” if only for a minute?.

The issue here, comes in quantity.

Four Lokos themselves are huge! Not all consumers can drink an entire can without getting sick and the real problem arises when people are drinking two (or three) Four Lokos in a night (or in an hour).

That’s more alcohol than any one needs to get a happy buzz—or a blackout—going and is certainly more alcohol than most people need to get life-threateningly ill.

The answer isn’t to ban Four Lokos but rather to educate students about responsible consumption of this beverage in particular and of alcohol in general.

I have never consumed a Four Loko myself—and, to be honest, after reading some Internet horror stories about them, I’m not sure if I ever will—but I can understand the appeal behind it and, to my friends who will inevitably consume the controversial concoction, I can only advise to Loko with caution.