Based on what I've gleaned from the one teen I follow on Instagram, the Kids are into all sorts of stuff these days, like shredded crop tops, fidget spinners, and getting 700 "likes" on every photo. But here's a new one: some teens are snorting chocolate for fun, and the Food and Drug Administration says it isn't so great for their health. (Bustle has reached out to Legal Lean, the company named in the FDA release, for comment, and will update upon response.)
Coco Loko, a brand of powdered snortable raw chocolate, has been on the market for some time now, having been inspired by a similar fad in Europe, per the New York Post. The concoction, which is part chocolate, part energy drink ingredients, allegedly gives the user about a 30-minute brain-boosting energy boost similar to, say, drinking a Red Bull. Back in July, creator Nick Anderson told Bustle there'd been "no adverse effects" from Coco Loko, though the powdered chocolate was still waiting on approval from the FDA. But on Tuesday, the FDA posted a warning letter to companies promoting Coco Loko and similarly marketed faux-treats, calling them potentially dangerous "alternatives to illicit street drugs."
According to the FDA, Coco Loko could induce an asthma attack or make someone's asthma worse, tighten breathing airways, and screw with vocal chords, in addition to causing other problems. Coco Loko also contains taurine and guarana, popular energy drink additions that have not been specifically dangerous to ingest, but have yet to be evaluated when inhaled.
“Encouraging the use of snortable chocolate as an alternative to illegal street drugs is not acceptable–there are very real consequences to snorting any powder, not to mention the societal dangers of promoting drug abuse,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement on Tuesday. The FDA also called out companies promoting Legal Lean Syrup, a codeine-laced sweet drink that contains doxylamine. Both products are made by Legal Lean LLC.
Doctors had warned against inhaling Coco Loko long before the FDA's letter this week, noting that snorting substances is particularly dangerous because of the damage it does to to your nose. Nasal inhalation can erode holes in one's septum and hurt the skin in nasal passages, eventually making it harder for your sinuses to purify the air that gets into your lungs.
"The nose conditions the air you breathe in, in addition to cleaning it,” Richard Lebowitz, an associate professor at New York University’s Department of Otolaryngology, told TIME . “If it’s not doing its job, the air you breathe into your lungs isn’t as good for you.”
Coco Loko is just one of many products and fads marketed toward teens and young adults that have raised health concerns over the years. Some of these include e-cigarettes, lip-plumping, vodka-eyeballing, and "Beezin'". And of course, never forget Four Loko, the energy-drink-slash-can-of-booze alcoholic sensation that dominated my late teen years, only to be deemed so dangerous that by the time I was of legal drinking age that the FDA demanded they remove the caffeine, guarana, and taurine, making it way less Loko (and less lethal) altogether. They kept the alcohol, though, prompting a 2014 lawsuit demanding the company that marketed the drink to stop aiming its advertisements at teenagers.
So, the moral of the story here is that snortable powdered chocolate is not a great way to get an energy boost. Just eat regular chocolate instead — not only is it delicious, if you stick with dark chocolate you may reap all sorts of health benefits, like lowering your risk of heart disease. And if you opt for cocoa powder instead of hard chocolate, you may be able to reduce your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol, and mitigate anxiety. Though, for the sake of your sinuses, please don't snort the cocoa.