Make us your home page
Instagram

You can now snort chocolate. But should you?

Each tin of Coco Loko comes with 10 servings and costs $24.99. [Image from Legal Lean]

Each tin of Coco Loko comes with 10 servings and costs $24.99. [Image from Legal Lean]

First came Four Loko, the alcoholic energy drink dubbed "blackout in a can."

Now meet Coco Loko, a "snortable" chocolate powder being marketed as a drug-free way to get a buzz. The product, created by Orlando-based company Legal Lean, includes cacao powder, as well as gingko biloba, taurine and guarana, which are commonly found in energy drinks.

Nick Anderson, the 29-year-old founder of Legal Lean, says he heard about a "chocolate-snorting trend" in Europe a few months ago. He ordered a sample and gave it a try.

"At first, I was like, 'Is this a hoax?,'" he recalled. "And then I tried it and it was like, okay, this is the future right here."

That led him to invest $10,000 into creating his own "raw cacao snuff." It took about 10 tries over two months to come up with the mixture, which was created by an Orlando-based supplement company.

"Some versions, they just burned too much," Anderson said. "Other times they looked gray and dull, or didn't have enough stimulants."

The effects of the cacao-based powder, he said, last about 30 minutes to an hour, and are "almost like an energy-drink feeling, like you're euphoric but also motivated to get things done."

But doctors say they're not quite sure what to make of the brown powder, which hit U.S. shelves last month and is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

"The question is, what are the risks of doing it?" said Dr. Andrew Lane, director of the Johns Hopkins Sinus Center. "There's no data, and as far as I can tell, no one's studied what happens if you inhale chocolate into your nose. When I mention it to people, nobody's ever heard of it." ("Maybe," he added, "I'm not in the in-crowd.")

Lane said he wasn't particularly worried that "snortable" chocolate could become a gateway drug, as users become accustomed to getting a buzz by inhaling powders.

"If you're going to do drugs, you probably don't start with chocolate," he said. "Certainly this is better than using an illicit drug."

The medical community has long raised concerns about the health effects of energy drinks — which often rely on caffeine, taurine and guarana, and have been shown to raise blood pressure and cause heart palpitations. Lane says those effects could be magnified if a person inhales those stimulants.

"There are a few obvious concerns," he said. "First, it's not clear how much of each ingredient would be absorbed into the nasal mucus membranes. And, well, putting solid material into your nose — you could imagine it getting stuck in there, or the chocolate mixing with your mucus to create a paste that could block your sinuses."

A spokesman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it had not decided whether, or how, the agency would regulate the product.

"In reaching that decision, FDA will need to evaluate the product labeling, marketing information, and/or any other information pertaining to the product's intended use," spokesman Peter Cassell said in an email.

A representative for the Drug Enforcement Agency, meanwhile, said he was not aware of any agency concerns related to chocolate inhalants.

Tins of Coco Loko, which have about 10 servings, sell for $24.99. Anderson, whose brother is a rapper named Bezz Believe, says the product is popular in the hip-hop community and near college campuses in Houston and Atlanta.

Anderson says he uses the chocolate powder as an alternative to drinking when he goes out. He also reaches for a tin during long car rides, music festivals and in "those types of social situations when you feel anxious."

He created his company, Legal Lean, two years ago with a $10,000 investment. The idea, he said, was to create a drug-free version of "lean" — a cough syrup-cocktail often made with promethazine or codeine that is known in hip-hop circles as "purple drank." His grape-flavored version, formulated over three months, is made with herbal extracts and marketed as a "dietary supplement."

It was a tough sell at first, Anderson says. People weren't sure what to make of his syrup-y concoction. But his brother soon began hawking it in YouTube music videos, and they began taking it to trade shows, where it generated interest. Today, the company sells 40,000 to 50,000 bottles of Legal Lean (which retail for $12.50 a pop) each month.

(The reviews on online message boards, meanwhile, are mixed: "All I felt was drowsy," a user named BodyAndBeats wrote on drugs-forum.com. "Put me right to sleep. Wasn't fun at all," said another, on IGN.com, a site for video game enthusiasts.)

You can now snort chocolate. But should you? 07/05/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 5, 2017 4:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times

    Business

    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]