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Caffeine Overdose and Monster Energy Drinks

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Can you overdose on caffeine? This is the question being asked of Monster energy drink executives, especially after a Maryland mother filed a lawsuit against the parent company, Monster Beverages, last week. Wendy Cossland’s 14-year old daughter, Anais Fournier, died last December after consuming two large cans of one of the monster energy drinks over a two day period. The cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia due to acute caffeine toxicity, which apparently had exacerbated an underlying and pre-existing heart problem. Since 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims there have been four other documented deaths along with Cossland’s daughter, and a non-fatal heart attack, which have reportedly all been directly related to drinking Monster Energy drinks. The fatality filings documented by the FDA have been made accessible to people, like Wendy Cossland, through the Freedom and Information Act.  A spokeswoman for the drink company, Monster, has stated that the beverage products are safe and were not the cause of the recent fatalities.

A Potentially Monster Problem

The release of the filings detailing the possibility of Monster Energy Drink deaths may increase Congressional calls for greater regulation of the energy products industry. Monster Energy is among scores of energy drinks like Red Bull and Rock Star, and energy “shots” like 5-hour Energy that companies are aggressively marketing to teenagers and young people. In fact, along with these latter demographics, the buzz around all these super-caffeinated and vitamin infused supplements is that they are also marketed towards people who like to get a buzz. Manufacture warning labels do appear on the can to conform to FDA. standards that are supposed to dissuade people under 12 years of age and those “sensitive” to caffeine from refraining from drinking their products. Usually these labels do little to deter addicts or alcoholics though, because the labels implicitly promise a mind altering experience and the beverage more a substance, than a refreshing libation.

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?

Another death by caffeine consumption was reported in 2006, when 19-year old James Stone’s heart failed after he ingested nearly two dozen NoDoz tablets, each containing about 200 mg of caffeine or about twice the amount found in an 8 oz cup of coffee. Monster Energy drinks vary in the mg amount of caffeine, but the Fournier girl drank one with 240 mg in each of the two cans she consumed. The FDA. filings have been little more than speculation, as FDA. spokeswoman Shelly Burgess stated that “so far there has been no causal link,” and that there could have been other products involved in the Fournier death, along with the others connected to the energy drinks. Caution should definitely be exercised when consuming these beverages, and especially around young people, who may be more likely to drink indiscriminately.

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