You may have seen stories about people snorting chocolate on your social media timelines.
The stories led to chatter in the ABC10 newsroom about whether or not "snortable" chocolate was a real product in the U.S.
So, ABC10 set out to verify if chocolate powder for the nose could be found at a store near you.
Coko Loco is "infused raw cacao snuff." Essentially, it's just cacao powder infused with energy boosters such as guarana and taurine, and a couple other natural cacao enhancers. The product looks like hot cocoa powder or chocolate milk powder and is intended to be ingested through the nose.
The Orlando-based company claims, Coco Loko results in an endorphin rush which mimics a "runner's high" and can also produce a euphoric energy "similar to the feeling of ecstasy." The product is marketed to people looking to party and who want an extra shot of energy. The company even claims athletes use the powder to obtain a "natural competitive edge."
Anderson explained, Coco Loko gives the rush of eating a candy bar or a piece of chocolate cake, without the sugar crash.
Snorting cocoa or cacao powder isn't a new trend. It's been a popular "drug" choice in European clubs for years.
"We wanted to create a new product that's marketable," Anderson said.
Retailers, such as WalMart, Target and Amazon, already sell raw cacao in the U.S. Cacao is the purest form of chocolate and is considered a superfood for being high in antioxidants. It is not the same thing as cocoa, which is processed at higher heat.
Coco Loko is the first cacao powder product to be sold in the U.S. specifically for the use of snorting.
So why can't you just buy cacao powder at a retail store and ingest it through your nose? Why is Coco Loko any different?
"We're marketing to a niche market that wants convenience," Anderson said. "We want to make it the cool thing."
Anderson explained, Coco Loko is sold in small, 1.25 ounce jars that are designed to pop into a person's pocket. This way, if a person wants to use it while out in a club, they can do so easily.
The reason for snorting the product is to feel the effects immediately, according to Anderson. Coco Loko can be mixed with milk or a beverage but it takes longer to feel the effects, which isn't convenient for the person out and about looking for some fun.
"I could see all demographics buying it but younger people are usually more open to trying it than older people," Anderson said.
Although Coco Loko is intended to snort while out partying, similar to drugs such as cocaine and MDMA, better known as Molly, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) doesn't regulate the cacao powder.
In fact, DEA spokesperson, Casey Rettig, told ABC10 she'd never heard of the product. The DEA only regulates products which contain Schedule I through V drugs. Cacao powder is not on any of the lists.
ABC10 also reached out to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who released this statement:
"The FDA is not prepared to issue a determination regarding whether and how this product is subject to FDA jurisdiction at this time." said Peter Cassell, FDA spokesperson. "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."
While Coco Loko is a legal product, it's not being regulated by the government and there are no current studies on the effects of snorting the cacao powder.
"We don't know what it does to the nose," said Dr. Toby Steele, ENT-otolaryngologist with University of California, Davis.
Steele explained, in general, anything going up the nose other than nasal saline can damage mucus membranes, which help trap bacteria and other harmful particles entering the nose.
The nose could also become irritated or experience blockage.
"What I would worry about the most is loss of sense of smell," Steele said.
Losing the sense of smell could be potentially dangerous since it serves as a warning in certain situations such as a fire or natural gas leak.
Steele doesn't recommend ingesting the cacao powder product through the nose.
"If a patient asked me if they should do it, I'd say no," Steele said.
Coco Loko isn't available in California stores yet. Anderson didn't have a date for when the product will hit California shelves but said it'd be "very soon."
However, the product is sold online for $24.99/1.25 oz. jar and is currently on sale for $19.99.
Nick Anderson, owner of Legal Lean
Casey Rettig, spokesperson for U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, San Francisco Division
Peter Cassell, spokesperson for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Dr. Toby O. Steele, assistant professor with the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of California, Davis
READ: Legal Lean website
READ: DEA Drug Schedules