Four Loko jolts drinkers locally, nationally



Editorial by Kernel staff. E-mail [email protected].

Caffeine is the newest ingredient added to alcoholic beverages of choice among college students. What may make it controversial, though, are the potential side effects (or lack thereof) and health implications of the alcohol-caffeine combination.

According to a Nov. 11 Kentucky Kernel article, Director of the Alcohol and Health Education Office at UK Andrew Smith said that the danger in alcoholic energy drinks like Four Loko is they “have the ability to keep people awake and delay the actual signs of feeling intoxicated.”

Although this has left some medical professionals concerned, caffeinated alcoholic beverages are more popular than ever.

The Kernel Editorial Board followed up with representatives from Big Daddy Liquors and Shenanigans Wines & Spirits after the Kernel article about Four Loco alcoholic energy drinks to see if Four Loko’s recent media spotlight has affected sales.

Roger, an employee from Big Daddy Liquors, said since the story ran, the company has seen a spike in sales of alcoholic energy drinks.

“It seems like people are interested,” he said. “People want to see if it’ll really mess you up.”

He is, of course, referring to the recent incidents at Central Washington University, in which nine underage students were hospitalized after drinking Four Loco.

The incidents aren’t deterring Four Loco from expanding its product, though.

Roger said in addition to the flavors Big Daddy Liquors currently sells, it will soon start carrying three new Four Loco flavors. Now patrons can enjoy watermelon, orange blend, “loko uva” (grape), blue raspberry, blueberry pomegranate, lemonade, cranberry lemonade, lemon lime and fruit punch.

Shenanigans Wines & Spirits also reported increases in sales after Friday’s Kernel story.

One employee said although Shenanigans had a truck come Thursday, it had sold out of Four Loko before the weekend.

“We’re increasing our order quantity,” she said. “People are ordering (Four Loko) by the case now.”

She also noted that buyers of alcoholic energy drinks are opting for Four Loko over other brands.

According to a Nov. 16 New York Times article, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is planning to take action against the sale of caffeinated alcoholic beverages. New York beer distributors agreed to stop product distribution by Dec. 10.

The New York Times article also stated that the probable action the FDA will take is issuing more warning letters. Officials predict courts will not prohibit the sale of alcoholic energy drinks altogether.

While the precise implications of caffeinated alcoholic drinks are undetermined (mostly because the product concept is new and controlled studies haven’t been conducted to measure the effects extensively), college students continue to buy in large quantities.

As with any alcoholic beverage, moderation and personal responsibility are key. The reported hospitalizations and deaths from consumption of alcoholic energy drinks often occurred after binge drinking and among underage college students.

While the FDA and individual states continue to debate what should be the next step in regulating the products and reprimanding offenders, students must keep in mind their role in this decision.