two addictions, both named blue monster

Four days ago, I decided to close my blog. Be warned, fellow bloggers, it is incredibly hard to quit. I’ve never felt more motivated to blog than I have the past four days, and so I’m wimping out on my cold turkey approach and going for the blogger “patch,” a post on scatterplot (I hope no scatterbrains are insulted by this analogy). So I began to consider what would be appropriate for my first post-Blue Monster post, and given that Jeremy invoked the drink, Blue Monster, in his eulogy, I thought, “why not?” After all, I probably did as much caffeine blogging as I did soc blogging!

It is also timely because as I traversed one of my workdays last week, I was confronted by a series of people informing me that there had been a story on one of our local news programs the night before focused on the dangers of energy drinks—decrying Monster as one of the primary nefarious exemplars!

Although I’ll admit that energy drinks are probably very poorly researched, especially with respect to the long-term consequences (revealed in part by the number of statements on the label that “have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration”), I’m also immediately suspicious of anything that smacks of paranoia and so I set off to find and evaluate the statements made in the news story. Given that web versions of news stories have a tendency to dry up over time, I repeat the entire WSBT story below.

As some of you know, I like to yammer about the state of journalism and this one just added fuel to my fire. The reporter is either a complete idiot or is purposely distorting the situation to produce some drama. For example, when they throw to the medical expert, they get him to compare the caffeine in energy drinks with the caffeine in Coke. Anybody who has been on the business end of an all-nighter knows darn well that there isn’t that much caffeine in Coke. That’s not the appropriate comparison at all—rather they should be looking at coffee as a more comparable product. When you do that, the insanity of swilling energy drinks doesn’t look all that bad after all.

Let’s compare a few popular caffeine delivery vehicles, shall we?*

  • A 12 oz coke has 34.5 mg or about 3 mg per ounce.
  • A 16 oz Monster has 160 mg or 10 mg per ounce.

So far our medical expert has the “facts” right. But wait for the punchline here:

  • Starbucks Grande Coffee: 330 mg or almost 21 mg per ounce!
  • Starbucks Short Coffee: 180 mg or 22.5 mg per ounce!
  • Starbucks double shot: 130 mg or 20 mg per ounce!
  • Double espresso: 154 mg or 51.33 mg per ounce!
  • Old fashioned, make it yourself drip coffee (8 oz): 145 mg or 18 mg per ounce.

Red Bull (one of the drinks pictured in the story) barely even charts here. It only has 80 mg or 9.6 per ounce.

The store owner, apparently a self-appointed expert who thinks these drinks are “a lot more potent than coffee (see video), has decided to limit the number of energy drinks teens can purchase to two. She, according to the story, is “all too familiar” with the trend in calls to the Indiana Poison control center about caffeine consumption, so she has decided to do something about it: introduce an unlawful policy that discriminates both according to age and caffeine choice! I can just see the caffeine coursing through the veins of these condescending adults as they decry the behavior of kids these days. Give me a break already….

You’ve gotta love the video, by the way, which shows the store owner standing in front of a large display of cigarettes she is apparently happy to sell in any quantity requested.

Energy drink popularity among teens has some concerned

SOUTH BEND — Energy drinks are all the rage these days, especially among teenagers. But one local store owner is worried they may be abusing them.

Busy schedules and a lack of sleep can force teenagers to find ways to get a boost. But sometimes a cup of coffee just doesn’t cut it. More teenagers are turning to energy drinks to get through the day.

Walk into any gas station or convenience store and you’ll find a large selection of energy drinks. One convenience store owner says its popularity is now turning into a big concern for her.

Sales couldn’t be better at CJ’s Quick Mart, especially when it comes to drinks with a kick.

“The ‘Monster’ [energy drink] is our number one [seller],” said CJ’s Quick Mart owner Candy Gioupis. “They pretty much like all the flavors.”

Gioupis says energy drinks have become increasingly popular over the past few years, mostly among teens.

“A lot of kids come in here and some of them buy one or two,” she said. “But the majority of the kids that are drinking it buy four, five, or six cans.”

Energy drinks do contain caffeine. But doctors say teens may not realize just how much is really in them.

“In a regular Coke can, on a per ounce basis, Coke has about three or four milligrams [of caffeine] per ounce, and these beverages have about 10 milligrams per ounce,” explained Dr. Mark Kricheff of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center. “So not only are you having twice as many, it’s more than double the concentration.”

And drinking too much caffeine can lead to potentially life-threatening side effects.

“Caffeine overdose can cause seizures. It can cause irregular heart rhythm, a condition call SVT where the heart beats very, very fast,” Kricheff said.

Caffeine overdoses are a growing problem. From May 2006 to May 2007, the Indiana Poison Control Center received 75 calls related to caffeine consumption. That number jumped to 94 the following year.

That’s a trend Gioupis is all too familiar with, and she decided to do something about it.

“So I personally limit how many they can buy here,” she said.

The FDA says energy drinks are considered a food-related item and that’s why they don’t have an age requirement. The FDA does regulate the type of ingredients, like caffeine, that are put in energy drinks. But they have not looked at regulating the amount that is in them.

______

* Sadly, I think it is fair to say i did more research for this blog entry than the reporter did for the story.

5 thoughts on “two addictions, both named blue monster”

  1. The media attack on Monster continues…

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/05/27/healthscience/27well.php

    The headline: “Energy drinks linked to risky behavior among teenagers”
    While it compares Monster to other energy drinks it also compares it to certain Starbucks drinks. My favorite part…”One concern about the drinks is that because they are served cold, they may be consumed in larger amounts and more quickly than hot coffee drinks, which are sipped.”

    Like

  2. A friend of mine, who grew up in a tiny little town in rural Illinois in the 1980s, described to me how he and his buddies used to get “high” on the caffeine in Mountain Dew. Fueled by the overdose of caffeine, they would ride their BMX bikes around a convenience store parking lot with wild heart palpitating abandon.

    Like

  3. i am seriously considering substituting addition to blue monster the blog with addition to blue monster the drink. somehow though i don’t think that substitution can be quite satisfying.

    Like

  4. @2 On several occasions when I have stayed up all night prepping a conference paper, I’ve iced my coffee so I could drink it faster, a practice on colleague referred to a “mainlining” the coffee.

    Like

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