Jan 17, 2020

A Monster of a problem

As college students, we have all had those nights when it’s 2 a.m. and you have a paper and two exams the next day. Some students will make a pot of tea; others will keep pounding cups of coffee. Many pulling all-nighters will make a preemptive trip to the gas station to pick up a case of their favorite caffeine-laden energy drink.

Though I would hope that as students of higher learning, our demographic would be intelligent enough to know that consuming copious amounts of any of these energy supplements is generally a bad idea.

Apparently that wisdom has been lost on some of our younger middle school and high school counterparts.

The New York Times reported that the energy drink Monster has been tied to the deaths of at least five people in a report by the Food and Drug Administration.

In the case cited in the article, a 14-year-old girl from Maryland died of “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity” after drinking two 24-ounce cans of Monster within a 24-hour period.

The mother of the girl is now attempting to sue Monster for not properly labeling its product as dangerous. Anyone who has ever bought any type of energy drink knows that this is a shaky argument, at best.

The warning label on a can of Monster reads: “Consume responsibly: Limit 3 cans per day. Not recommended for children, pregnant women or people sensitive to caffeine.”

While I would argue that even three cans a day is excessive, it still gives the general idea that the radioactive-green-colored liquid you’re about to chug down probably is not a healthy thing to begin with. When it says pregnant women and children should avoid drinking it, that should be a red flag.

A single can of Monster has 240 milligrams of caffeine. This is about six times as much as is in a 12-ounce can of soda.

Monster is far from being the strongest of these drinks. Another energy drink, literally called Cocaine, has 280 milligrams of caffeine per 8.4-ounce can. Redline has 250 milligrams in each 8-ounce can. Sale of both of these products was restricted to people over 18 and was outright banned in many places.

My point is that there should be a reasonable assumption for people to know better than to drink energy drinks in excess. The same logic applies to any other form of potentially dangerous (and even not-so-dangerous) activities.

If you eat an entire family-sized pizza by yourself, don’t be surprised when you get indigestion later that night. When you drink 16 shots of tequila at the bar and wake up on your bathroom floor in the morning, that’s all on you.

I read a story a few months ago in which a man was driving 80 mph through neighborhood streets and hit a light post, killing himself and his pregnant girlfriend. Many of the comments on the article were to the effect of, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this happened! How horrible!”

Yes, it’s horrible. But unexpected? Definitely not.

People need to be held personally accountable for their own reckless behavior. In many cases, it’s just downright stupid. We seem to live in a culture that has to drop the bar to cater to the lowest common denominator. We see this reflected in our K-12 school system as well, but that’s a whole separate article in itself.

We should not have to impose extraneous restrictions simply because a small number of people abuse a product. Are we really so mindless of a society that our every action and decision has to be dictated by a committee to tell us when things are bad for us? I would like to think not, but my confidence is quickly waning.

On the case of the Maryland girl: Why does a 14-year-old need to be drinking energy drinks in the first place?

As adults, our energy levels are starting to decline right when we reach college. I can understand people our age needing an occasional energy boost every now and then. But I can’t seem to rationalize any reason why a young teenager with naturally high energy levels would need to consume multiple cans of Monster.

The mother seems to be too-little-too-late in her concern for her daughter’s health. Why did she buy her daughter these drinks in the first place?

Surely one could not argue that she was merely ignorant of the increased caffeine content of energy drinks, right? It seems fairly obvious to me, at least, that any beverage labeled as an “energy” supplement is bound to have a high amount of energy-providing ingredients in it – caffeine, perhaps?

And the real kicker: The 14-year-old girl had a preexisting condition of which her mother was aware.

The New York Times article stated that her doctors had not given her any sort of warning to restrict her caffeine intake. Though I find this hard to believe, I feel that it should go without saying.

People who eat McDonald’s five times a week and then try to sue the company for giving them a heart attack fall into this same category. Just because it’s available does not mean you should have it all the time. And it should not be the responsibility of the company to let consumers know that things that are obviously bad for you are, well, bad for you.

This is just another example of requiring the general population to conform to restrictions based on the ineptitude of the incredibly small minority of people who are too irresponsible to use common sense.

Next thing you know, there will be labels on fire warning us not to touch it because it’s too hot.

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