Energy Drinks Are the New Heroin

Monday, March 26th, 2012

The media is again drumming up hysteria about energy drinks, this time after a 14-year-old girl with a heart condition called mitral valve prolapse died after consuming two 24-ounce Monster drinks in 24 hours. Take it away Today show . . .

 . . . To put it another way: By drinking just two large energy drinks, Anais drank as much caffeine as you’d find in about 14 cans of Coke.

Hey, let’s put it in yet another way: By drinking just two large energy drinks, Anais drank as much caffeine as you’d find in 41 chocolate bars.

Or, if you weren’t trying to scare the hell out of people, you could put it this way: Two 24-ounce energy drinks may seem like a lot, but other patients with mitral valve prolapse should take note that Anais would have ingested more caffeine if she’d had just one-and-half medium-sized Starbucks coffees. Over 24 hours.

Today could have used Anais’s sad story as an opportunity to engage in some public service journalism about a potentially fatal condition that affects 5 percent of the population. The primary message here might have been that people with mitral valve prolapse should really try to avoid ingesting caffeine at all. That would have helped get more attention for mitral valve prolapse.

Instead, they made it about energy drinks. Which really only helps get more attention for the Today show.

One other point on this story: I really wish marijuana legalization groups would drop the “instead of banning pot, why don’t we ban this terrible thing” line of argument. Or if they insist on using that line of argument, they should at least stop pretending that their cause is  motivated by freedom and individual liberty.

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42 Responses to “Energy Drinks Are the New Heroin”

  1. #1 |  Fred Mangels | 

    I really wish marijuana legalization groups would drop the “instead of banning pot, why don’t we ban this terrible thing” line of argument..

    Agreed. That’s annoyed me for some time.

  2. #2 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Sadly marijuana legalizers are as prone to “You shouldn’t live the want you do, you should live the way I do” thinking as the rest of humanity.

  3. #3 |  A Critic | 

    I support legalizing all drugs, or prohibiting them all. The former would be the right thing to do, and the latter the wrong, but I think a consistent approach would be better than this mess. I’d like to see a “End Hypocrisy” law banning all drugs so that we can all be in the same boat.

  4. #4 |  Willie Aponte | 

    I use that line of argument often. It’s a technique useful if opening eyes by comparing similar activities.

    Most proponents of banning guns claim they want to save lives (and I have no reason to doubt their sincerity). I merely point out that if they REALLY wanted to save lives they would push for banning cars which take more lives annually than guns.

  5. #5 |  Bob | 

    My favorite is Monster’s 16 ounce energy drinks…. The box clearly indicates that you should not drink more than 3 in a day, but there are 4 in the box.

    They’re just taunting you!

  6. #6 |  Bob | 

    How does “T-Bolt” know to put their ad for T-Bolt energy drinks on the page? This new level of directed ad placement on web sites is scaring me!

  7. #7 |  Jozef | 

    The girl also swallowed about a gallon of saliva during those 24 hours. That’s like ingesting entire four quarts of dihydrogen monoxide! I say we ban saliva before it’s too late.

  8. #8 |  Ken | 

    I like how “caffeine toxicity” is in quotes. I can do this too: girl dies of “peanut toxicity” after just one peanut.

  9. #9 |  Bernard | 

    A professional footballer in the UK just had a heart attack on the pitch based on a similar condition. Strangely noone has talked about banning football (Whereas if it were boxing…)

  10. #10 |  NL_ | 

    It’s hard for people to conceive of something that’s a bad idea and a harmful idea, but also perfectly legal and legitimate to do. Everybody agrees that personal choice and personal responsibility are important, but when you ask them if something should be legal they answer based on whether that something is a smart choice.

  11. #11 |  picachu | 

    Willie Aponte “Most proponents of banning guns claim they want to save lives (and I have no reason to doubt their sincerity). I merely point out that if they REALLY wanted to save lives they would push for banning cars which take more lives annually than guns.”

    Yea I made a point with someone not long ago that since you want the government to keep us safe at all costs why not lower the speed limit EVERYWHERE to 5 miles an hour? Seriously if keeping people safe is the government’s biggest and most important task then why don’t we do that?

  12. #12 |  Cyto | 

    off-topic: Looks like the Chinese government has been studying our example for how to run a police state. They even have the snazzy uniforms.

  13. #13 |  Articles to Begin the New Week » Scott Lazarowitz's Blog | 

    [...] Radley Balko: Energy Drinks Are the New Heroin [...]

  14. #14 |  derfel cadarn | 

    Obviously the Today show seems to think it impossible to drink 14 cans of Coke in 24 hours,amazingly this is not the case. This is the type over reaction that allows do gooders the chance to assault even more peoples rights. More people in America die from stupid than any other cause. Does that mean that we can sue teachers ,school districts and their administrators for not educating people well ? This is something to think about,we could them right out of business and install a proper education system.

  15. #15 |  Steve Miller Band | 

    Radley,

    You about killed me laughing with that one.

    While I feel empathy for this young woman, and her family and friends, if you know you have MVP, WHY IN THE HELL would you drink this much Monster? That would even give me cardiac arrest!

  16. #16 |  marco73 | 

    Only 14 cans of coke in a day?
    So that’s 168 ounces. About 2.5 of the 64 ounce big gulp cups sold in just about every convenience store in America.
    Did anyone on the Today show staff ever attend, you know, college?
    I know people who would polish off a big gulp for lunch, another for afternoon snack, and another for their all nighter. And do that several times a week for the entire semester.
    And don’t even start on the caffeine in Cuban coffee – that stuff is twice (or more) as strong as American coffee, and could peel paint.
    The 14-year-old girl had a medical condition. Tragically, she ingested too much caffeine, no matter the source. The Today Show just stood on top of her for ratings.

  17. #17 |  Deoxy | 

    The Today Show just stood on top of her for ratings.

    This.

    As to caffeine, I knew a couple of guys that in high school that each slammed a six-pack of Jolt cola (“All the sugar, twice the caffeine” – it’s the earliest “energy drink” type thing that I remember), just for the giggles… they were so juiced up that their vision was blurring and shaking.

    People do dumb things.

  18. #18 |  CyniCAl | 

    Since prohibiting alcohol would make far more sense than prohibiting marijuana from a public safety standpoint, I have no problem using that comparison to demonstrate how idiotic it is that alcohol is legal and marijuana is not. Especially in light of the fact that alcohol once was illegal and is legal now.

    Either both alcohol and marijuana should be illegal or both should be legal. It is insane to have different policies for each, and it negates any moral authority the State has to prohibit either, not that the State has morals or cares anyway.

  19. #19 |  Rob Mac | 

    What CyniCAl said. I don’t really know any examples of the kind of pro-pot/anti-some-unspecified-thing argument Radley is referring to. Generally when people say, for example, “If pot is illegal, why is alcohol legal?” they are making the sort of point CyniCAl makes.

    Still, life (and by extension, public policy) is full of trade offs, and hypocrisy is a sin that a certain type of cynic tends to make too much off.

    Society might decide that forcing parents to put 6-year-olds into booster seats is worth the cost in inconvenience and loss of liberty given the lives saved and injuries prevented. However, forcing said children to wear crash helmets (or forcing everyone to drive 5 miles per hour) is not. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that calculation.

  20. #20 |  ken | 

    The dangerous thing about that line of argument is that so many people don’t get that your trying to show how absurd and illogical their point of view is, and instead think it’s a really great idea to ‘ban this or that’ too.
    It is possible that they hold the illogical viewpoint because they simply haven’t been exposed to enough facts to counter it, but much more likely that they hold the illogical view because they are dumb@$$#$

  21. #21 |  pierre | 

    I should care but I don’t, because people who drink energy drinks tend to be chin-bearded fucktards who like ultimate fighting – and wear clothes with skulls and glitter and shit.

    I don’t trust anybody who wants to be amped up all the time.

  22. #22 |  joe | 

    if, when the wolf comes, you send him to your neighbor’s tent, he will be hungry again tomorrow. eventually, yours will be the only tent left.

  23. #23 |  Ted S. | 

    @Pierre:

    Your comment runs up against one of RC Dean’s Iron Laws: Me today, you tomorrow.

    Never mind that your line of thinking is what led fucktards like Chuck Schumer to try to ban Four Loko, but not Irish coffee.

  24. #24 |  Bill | 

    I drink several cups of coffee a day due to my family history of Parkinson’s disease. My heart is very healthy, according to my doctor. I also some tobacco, from time to time, for the same reason. I wish these fuckers would stop trying to kill me.

  25. #25 |  GreginOz | 

    re “One other point on this story: I really wish marijuana legalization groups would drop the “instead of banning pot, why don’t we ban this terrible thing” line of argument”

    Seriously, I just want them to stop trying to legalise it! Why? Well, I live in Australia, pot is illegal in my state, N.S.W. Over the last 30 years it has stayed the same size, the same price but its strength has probably increased 100%. That is the function of the market, the Agora. So who needs Gummint interference? Also, unlike the U.S. if you get busted with a $50, usually a dog, the cops don’t actually shoot you, they just boredly give you a “Cannabis Caution” & tell you to piss off! After 2 c.c’s you might go to court & cough up a $200 fine…

  26. #26 |  Windy | 

    “One other point on this story: I really wish marijuana legalization groups would drop the “instead of banning pot, why don’t we ban this terrible thing” line of argument. Or if they insist on using that line of argument, they should at least stop pretending that their cause is motivated by freedom and individual liberty.”

    Oh, I SO agree with you, it makes me so angry to see that, and I think those people are selfish, they want their particular vice legal and free of stigma, but let other people’s vices continue to be criminalized. If I see that kind of thinking in an article that allows comments, or in the comments on any article, I call the writer on it, usually they just ignore me.

  27. #27 |  russ | 

    “The Today Show” is an entertainment show on NBC, they “talk” about news worthy items for their entertainment value and to be upset that the Today Show reported the entertainment value of a young women dieing will have you upset to no end, that’s what they do. Every day! Natalie Holloway’s murder is the most prolific example I can think of.

  28. #28 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    I just had a horrible thought; what the heck are we going to do to keep the overeager Drug Warriors occupied if we legalize marijuana? We certainly don’t want those thumb-fingered trigger happy morons enforcing traffic law!

  29. #29 |  Deoxy | 

    We certainly don’t want those thumb-fingered trigger happy morons enforcing traffic law!

    Put the worst 10% or so in prison, and most of the rest will fall into line.

  30. #30 |  lunchstealer | 

    Yeesh. A – I’ve consumed the equivalent of 14 Cokes in 24 hours. Easy. Lots of times. By consuming 14 cokes in 24 hours.

    I’ve certainly consumed the equivalent of 8 Mountain Dews in 24 hours, as well.

    I’ve consumed a Starbucks tall Pike Place, then gone to the office and had two more cups of coffee, and then had a 22 oz Coke with lunch.

    I’ve advocated marijuana legalization, based on the threefold argument that people must be responsible for their own actions and that marijuana prohibition specifically is as destructive as alcohol prohibition and that marijuana use is less harmful than alcohol use, thus pretty much any argument against marijuana that one doesn’t use against alcohol is bogus.

    Unfortunately, drug warriors have tweaked to that last one and are now arguing for alcohol prohibition, too. Hopefully they’ll be on the wrong side of history, but I’m never sanguine about such things.

  31. #31 |  Fred Mangels | 

    And I’ve been seeing more and more people suggest banning tobacco.

  32. #32 |  croaker | 

    @25 You mean the worst 90%, and jail is too soft. I want to see them on chain gangs. Real ones. The ones the Egyptians used to build the Pyramids, complete with bullwhips and daily fatalities.

  33. #33 |  DarkEFang | 

    #19 –

    “I should care but I don’t, because people who drink energy drinks tend to be chin-bearded fucktards who like ultimate fighting – and wear clothes with skulls and glitter and shit.”

    Hey now, let’s not be insulting. There is no glitter on my clothes.

  34. #34 |  el coronado | 

    Take it easy on the chin-bearded fucktards. (also, never bash the tattoo people. Tats serve an invaluable purpose: highly visible dumbshit indicators. Sorta like Bill Engvall’s “Here’s your sign” notion.) They’re just showing their contempt for this cookie-cutter gray flannel society in precisely the same way everyone does at that age: By taking identical paths to nonconformity.

    Most of them will grow out of it, especially after life its ownself hits ‘em between the eyes with a 2×4 a few times. And for the ones who *don’t* grow out of it, well….society will deal with them the same way it’s always done: by exploiting their stupid asses.

  35. #35 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    highly visible dumbshit indicators. Sorta like Bill Engvall’s “Here’s your sign” notion.

    You CANNOT call someone a dumbshit and then quote Bill Engvall!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYDIhmfGMpU

  36. #36 |  A Critic | 

    “Tats serve an invaluable purpose: highly visible dumbshit indicators. ”

    Sometimes. What about my concealed tattoos? What about the highly visible tattoos on my young prodigy friend?

  37. #37 |  Loretta Nall | 

    I also really wish legalization groups would stop that rubbish as well. It’s not cool to offer to exchange someone else’s liberty and freedom to do what they like in exchange for your own. In my mind those who argue that point are no better than narcs who turn in others in exchange for their own freedom. It comes to the same in the end.

  38. #38 |  Dedward | 

    “One other point on this story: I really wish marijuana legalization groups would drop the “instead of banning pot, why don’t we ban this terrible thing” line of argument. Or if they insist on using that line of argument, they should at least stop pretending that their cause is motivated by freedom and individual liberty.”

    Same goes for the “pot should be legalized, regulated and TAXED” line, an argument that reeks of “slave morality”.

  39. #39 |  el coronado | 

    *sigh*

    OK, for all youse humorless tattoo defenders out there, the obligatory disclaimer I foolishly assumed you’d be astute enough to already know.

    (deep breath) “Despite the fact that for hundreds of years tattoos were associated primarily with drunken sailors on shore leave, longshoremen, prostitutes, and convicts, it must be said that there are among today’s tatted legions a few exceptions to the rule. As there are exceptions to *every* rule except death, taxes, & gravity.”

    In the main, though, I stand by my “dumbshit indicator” claim. The fight may not always be to the strong, nor the fight to the swift, but…that’s the way to bet.

  40. #40 |  el coronado | 

    Shit.

    “…nor the RACE to the swift…”

  41. #41 |  JOR | 

    I have nothing against drunken sailors, longshoremen, or prostitutes. Nor do I see any reason to label them “dumbshits”. As for convicts, well, depends on what they were convicted of.

  42. #42 |  el coronado | 

    Sure ya do, JOR. You either just don’t realize it, or don’t want to admit it. Let’s put it to the acid test:

    A) Your beloved, beautiful, shy, innocent 18-year-old daughter comes home one day and announces, “Mom, Dad….I’ve met a wonderful and caring pimp maned Upgrayyedd, and have decided to enter the thrilling and profitable life of prostitution! Can you help me pick out a suitable tattoo?”

    B) Same daughter comes home with tattoo-laden mouth-breathing dirtbag on her arm, and tells you she’s gonna *MARRY* the drunken sailor, longshoreman, or ex-con and in fact “I’m already carrying his baby!”

    How you like ‘em NOW, bubba?

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