Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Dangers of Energy Drinks

A recent article on the dangers of teen consumption of energy drinks contains many of the scare tactics typical for the modern-day puritan (e.g. citing only two documented cases--one number was vaguely and merely "several" and the other was "four").

However, it also suggests that the "energy surge" (due mostly to high caffeine content) of such beverages leads to "Toxic-jock behavior." The article defines this phenomenon as an increased willingness to engage in risky and often aggressive behavior.

To this point, I can offer some personal support.

I played high school football for four years (in four seasons, we only lost two games--yeah, I'm bragging). As a senior, during our first game (which we lost, even though we were ranked 11th in the US by USA Today--bragging, again) I noticed that some of my fellow players were taking pills before the game and during half-time.

My suspicion was that they were taking steroids. This suspicion was fueled by countless after-school specials and frequent anecdotes in various health classes.

The next week, I decided to inquire--for these were my friends, and I was concerned. That's when Joe--one of our inside linebackers--showed me the bottle. The pills were caffeine, in a very high dosage that I cannot recall accurately. Let's just call it about 250 milligrams--or two cans of "Red Bull" (10 grams is considered lethal).

I was relieved. It was just caffeine! Hell, that's legal, so I asked for one.

"No, dude," Joe said. "We take two." (that's 500 milligrams)

"OK, then give me two," I replied--and I took them.

Now here's what I have to say about this "Toxic-jock behavior." I played like an animal. I drove my guy into the ground on almost every play, and I made open-field hits like a madman. Seriously, it was one of my best games ever. If you don't believe me, I'll show you the tape. After one particular hit--it was a blindside strike at least 20 yards away from the play (which was ending)--one of the refs warned me to "cool it down, number 50!"

The thing is, I wasn't ready to cool it down. I was charged. All I wanted to do was to hit one of the other team so hard that he lost his senses.

Incidentally, I sustained a bad ankle injury the next week during practice. I was out for the next four games, and when I returned, I was not as mobile. I did not take the caffeine pills for the rest of the season, but I still felt like killing the other team.

This might put a wrench in this "toxic-jock behavior" theory. When in competition, my MO is always to destroy--not just beat--my opponent. I am ruthless and unforgiving. What I tell my football players now (as their coach) is to make the other team's mothers ashamed of them. The truth is, it wasn't the caffeine pills that made me want to crush the idiot who had the brainless guts to line up against me. It's just how I play the game.

Basically passive people (e.g. John Tesh) are not the typical consumers of energy drinks. If the typical consumer is naturally aggressive, then it's really easy to connect the drinks to the aggression--but it's inaccurate.

Feed a Cheerios to a serial killer, and he'll kill people. That doesn't mean that Cheerios lead to homicide (though I enjoyed pairing cereal consumption with serial murder). Similarly, BAR and "Howling Mad" Murdock aren't geeks because they watch Battlestar Galactica. They watch Battlestar Galactica because they are geeks already.

Basically, energy drinks may be slightly or even very unhealthy. However, those who argue against them are of the same ilk renowned for their willingness to be dishonest--either distorting or flat out fabricating their supporting data. Think of all the crap that gets said of Catholics by various (and usually small and isolated) protestant groups. Most of it is just plain lies. Hell, one a-hole who can burn in the Hell that he so fears went as far to warn my great-grandmother that since my wife and I were being married by a Catholic priest, that the priest would have to have sex with her to consecrate the marriage! This DB actually said this, even though my wife looks nothing like an altar boy. My great-grandmother actually called me in tears because she was sure that the guy was wrong, but she just needed me to tell her so (if I could find that guy right now, I'd drink ten cans of "Red Bull" and go all Toxic-jock on him).

The irony is that such unethical tactics lead most young people--who are often foolish but not brain dead--to disbelieve everything that is said against drugs. I'm not talking about just energy drinks here, I'm talking about seriously bad stuff. However, since so much of what the anti-drug forces say is utter bullsquat, the actually true things are left in doubt as well.

Let's look at the numbers. A can of "Red Bull" has 116 milligrams of caffeine. The lethal dosage of caffeine is 10 grams. That means that you need to drink 86 cans of "Red Bull" in rapid succession in order to die.

How many cans of beer must you drink in rapid succession in order to die--20?--30?

These numbers just don't make sense. Energy drinks are not as dangerous as the critics are saying.

According to the article, an unspecified (but implied low) amount of energy drinks can lead to "Toxic-jock behavior."

How many cans of beer must you drink in rapid succession before you start acting like an idiot--6? (if you're "Howling Mad" Murdock)--12 ?(if you're me)-- .25? (if you're BAR)?

I know that I'm comparing different drugs here, and that my analysis/critique is not very scientific. However, I think that you can agree that there seems to be some fudging with numbers, likelihoods, and such.

I never liked the puritans of Salem. They see witches everywhere, in every thing--even energy drinks.

Did you ever stop to think that the "Red Bull" looks an awful lot like Satan?

Holy crap, it's time to get the scales out. If the CEO of the company that makes "Red Bull" weighs the same as a duck, then . . .


  1. You, sir, imply that people don't start acting like idiots until they drink beer. What about all of the idiotic behavior done by sober people? What's their excuse? And if I piss on your basement floor after .25 beers, it's not because my judgement is impaired. Don't you have some Battlestar Galactica to watch, geek?

  2. I about pissed myself with the John Tesh reference. Nicely done.

    I have to go watch Battlestar Galactica.


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