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November 16, 2017

New alcoholic drink driving UMass students “Loko”

Courtesy Phusion Projects

It took just one can.

Only 23.5 ounces caused Joshua Hussey to blackout after his first experience with Four Loko.

“I don’t know what happened for four hours.  I wasn’t with anyone. I was on the streets alone – blackout drunk,” said Hussey about his first experience with the popular caffeinated alcoholic beverage. He explained the feeling as “wide awake drunk.” However, he explained, the feeling was short lived.

“I remember calling my friends around 3:45 a.m. We were in Northampton for that EDMC dance event at Diva’s. They came and got me after 4:00 a.m. I was puking for the rest of the night.”

This was Hussey’s first full weekend in college this September.

Produced by Phusion Projects, the Four brand has been on the market since 2005, however, it is only recently started appearing on the college circuit. It only recently started appearing on the college circuit.

“I haven’t heard of them until this semester,” said Diane Fedorchak, the Project Director at the BASICS Program for alcohol screening and abuse at the University of Massachusetts. She said the drink was just brought to her attention this fall.

“It’s equivalent to like five drinks isn’t it?” asked Fedorchak.

Actually, according to CNN, it’s equal to a six-pack of 12 oz. beer. Served in a 23.5 ounce. colorful aluminum can, Four Loko boasts an alcohol content of 12%, costs anywhere from $2.50-$3.00 per can, comes in nine flavors, and contains high levels of caffeine, taurine, and guarana – all of which are ingredients usually found in energy drinks. All these stimulants account for the “wide awake drunk” feeling students have reported after drinking the beverage, and it’s this particular mixture that has officials like those at BASICS worried.

“We’ve had our eye out to see if they’ve appeared on campus, and they have,” said Fedorchak.

“They’re dangerous,” explained Fedorchak, “It makes me sad we are poisoning our young people, and for what? To sell a product?” The Wall Street Journal reports Four Loko holds a rank of fourth in sales growth among alcoholic beverages at 7-Eleven stores. The drink has become increasingly popular amongst college students and UMass is no exception. “I know there’s been an uptake in consumption of these types of beverages here at UMass,” said Fedorchak.

Despite the dangers of mixing high levels of caffeine and alcohol, students are aware of this and continue to drink them.

“I’ve had them once or twice since then and they’re definitely not good for you. They’re awesome, but terrible for you” said Hussey.

Four Loko is not FDA approved, and the exact ingredients aren’t quite clear because there is no information on the can and Phusion Projects has not released a complete list. “We don’t know what’s in it, but we have fun anyway,” said UMass student Ye Liu.

In several states, attorneys are launching investigations into the potential health risks of the drink. Some schools are already all too familiar with the effects the drinks can have on their students. Ramapo College in New Jersey and Central Washington University in Roslyn, Wash. have already banned the drinks after several students at both schools were hospitalized after drinking the alcoholic energy drinks. “There’s a reason, students are calling them ‘coke’ or ‘blackout’ in a can,” said Fedorchak. But banning them wouldn’t just solve the problem.

“There’d be something else on the market to replace it,” explained Fedorchak, and students agree. UMass student Chris Lehman said, “I would’ve made up for them some other way.”

“Exactly,” agreed Liu with a nod.

No course of action has been employed at UMass to address this growing fad, but officials say they are keeping an eye out on the situation.

“I think if we have a couple of incidents, action will be taken,” explained Fedorchak. “It’s about keeping our students safe. Most students don’t say they hope to blackout, vomit, and pee on themselves when they drink. They don’t cross that line. Four Loko crosses that line.”     

Kaya Swainson can be reached at

One Response to “New alcoholic drink driving UMass students “Loko””
  1. UMASS_Dad says:

    I hope you folks realize that this is a great marketing and promotional piece for this drink. Are you trying to get some candidates for the BASICS program? Are things a little slow over there and staffers are worried about their jobs or something?

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