Meth in a Can

By Keith Graves

In Nutrition

November 24, 2008

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Keith Graves is a certified Level 1 CrossFit Trainer at MMCrossFit in Livermore, CA, and a police officer assigned to both the Narcotics Unit and the SWAT Team. Graves is a certified Drug Recognition Expert Instructor (#3292), a court-certified expert in stimulant influence, and a teacher of drug influence courses for the California Narcotics Officers Association. He sees an unfortunate similarity between the effects of consuming significant quantities of popular energy drinks with taking methamphetamine.

Some people might think that this is just hyperbole. Some think there is no way that you can compare energy drinks and supplements to meth. But the fact is that some of the more common ingredients in energy drinks are serious stimulants. Many people have come to accept and use Red Bull and its clones on a daily basis. I want you to walk away from reading this by remembering one thing: energy drinks are simply meth in a can. Yes, meth — methamphetamine, a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant. The more meth you take, the more you crave it and the more you need it. The same thing applies to energy drinks.
I decided to a do a drug influence evaluation on the student, who had already downed a 16-oz. can of “Rock Star Energy Shot,” a packet of “Zip Fizz,” and two other “energy supplements” to help him stay awake and provide energy for his morning workouts. I found that he had the signs and symptoms of drug influence. His pupils were dilated and his pulse elevated, and I saw muscle tremors. These are signs of methamphetamine influence. The only thing missing was the massive euphoria that meth users feel when they ingest their drug.

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32 Comments on “Meth in a Can”

1

wrote …

Nice to see CF tackle this. That energy drinks are somehow associated with fitness baffles me. It's the dietary equivalent of skipping rest days. It may feel good at the time, but eventually will come back to kick you in the rear.

I do think, however, that a generalized health article like this should probably be included as a free article. Those who need to read it don't want to pay for it and as such, it would be a public service to offer it for free.

2

wrote …

Good point, Patrick. Done.

3

wrote …

Keith,

Not what I wanted to hear, but explains a lot. When deployed, I'll start each day with a giant, and I mean giant cup of coffee. On mission days, I'll drink more coffee followed up by 4 1/2 cans of Rip It (at least I chose the sugar free flavor). A mission work day is long and exhausting and I have always wondered why I just couldn't sleep and rest well afterwards. Now I feel kind of dumb. And yes, after time, all those stimulants just don't seem to help much. Next trip, I will not make the same mistake. Thanks.

4

wrote …

Thanks for the article. A few months ago I quit drinking can after can of Sugar Free Red Bull. I was totally addicted and worried about what I was putting into my body.

I replaced RedBull with a 30 dollar a day Starbucks habit. I don't feel like I get any sort of energy boost from drinking coffee. A nice warm cappuccino can send me off to dream land.

Is coffee in the same group as energy drinks? Should we be worrying about lots of caffeine or is it all the other ingredients in energy drinks that are bad?
Or is it just the side effects that matter?

5

wrote …

Two things.
This is a very black and white article on this subject with very references and not one specific citation. This Johns Hopkins study could be legit but who knows it could be crap. Please cite so readers can judge the validity of your statements sources.

Second, I would love to read a dialog between the author and Crossfit's own nutrition guru Mr. Wolf who has been quoted as saying that "caffeine is a gift from the gods".

6

wrote …

I don't know. This seems like a topic that is best suited for a nutritionist. The right wing para-military cop perspective is kinda funny. All gun in hand, war on drugs, DUI, and very little content worth reading. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the police/military drapped crossfit mainsite and journal. I'm all for it. But reason needs to temper the information content. And this article is pushing the limits of reason and looking more fanatical. The article is ripe with innuendo, falsities, and misconceptions too.
Increased nervous system stimulation dilates the pupils. Oh no, am I on the bodies self made crack or angel dust! Not really. I'd call it ad absurdum. Do you think that selling Cocaine under the name cheese makes it less addicting? Then what makes selling some drink under the name Amped any more harmful. Sure, names tell a story, especially to people looking to find a story.
I like that part where he says, So why are energy drinks so bad for you? And then goes on to show that they generally have less caffine than Starbucks! Not to mention the lowest possible value indicated for caffine in coffee. Try 140mg, not 80mg per cup and you've got a more realistic intake. The whole article is designed to carefully with-hold the truth...i.e. lie. 2 grams of stimulant blend...according to the article ginseng is a stimulant and it could make up 1.8 grams of the two gram blend...that data is not provided to us...yet the worst possible situation is constantly touted as the truth.

Again, my issue is with the article...not that truth. Caffine is not perfect, and neither are energy drinks, coffee, or tea. But give us data.

Time to look at the CF journal as a magazine...real journals are peer reviewed. Ditch the misleading Journal title. It's not a journal.

7

wrote …

My intake of energy drinks begins and ends with long, tiring car-trips. Especially ones that take me through central Nevada. I can say that they do their job. Seriously though, this is akin to "No News in the News". If someone seriously thinks energy drinks are a healthy choice, they deserve what they are getting. Dousing your central nervous system with an overload of stimulants sure seems like a bad idea. I have to agree with a lot of the other comments though. This article asks the reader to accept the "facts" without any empirical data other than a trained police officer's assessment of a trainee that is totally hopped up on energy drinks.

I think we can all agree that energy drinks are not healthy. But how bad are they? I don't think this article quantifies that in a meaningful way.

8

wrote …

Daniel, here is one article among many. This particular one collected data from seven sources. I only looked at the 2008 publications on the subject of "energy drinks" in the National Library of Medicine.

Safety issues associated with commercially available energy drinks.
Clauson KA, Shields KM, McQueen CE, Persad N.
J Am Pharm Assoc. 2008 May-Jun;48(3):e55-63.

College of Pharmacy-West Palm Beach, Nova Southeastern University, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410, USA. clauson@nova.edu

OBJECTIVE: To describe benefits and adverse effects associated with the consumption of energy drinks.

DATA SOURCES: Searches were conducted using Medline, IPA (International Pharmaceutical Abstracts), EMBASE, and MANTIS; databases such as Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, Natural Standard, ALTMEDEX, and AltHealthWatch; and Google (range 1980 to September 2007). Search terms included energy drink, Red Bull, caffeine, glucose, ginseng, guarana, taurine, and bitter orange.

DATA SYNTHESIS: Most energy drinks contain natural products such as guarana, ginseng, and taurine. As much as 80 to 300 mg of caffeine and 35 grams of processed sugar per 8-ounce serving are commonly present in energy drinks such as Cocaine, Pimp Juice, Red Bull, and Spike Shooter. No reports were identified of negative effects associated with taurine, ginseng, and guarana used in the amounts found in most energy drinks. Commonly reported adverse effects seen with caffeine in the quantities present in most energy drinks are insomnia, nervousness, headache, and tachycardia. Four documented case reports of caffeine-associated deaths were found, as well as four separate cases of seizures associated with the consumption of energy drinks.

CONCLUSION: The amounts of guarana, taurine, and ginseng found in popular energy drinks are far below the amounts expected to deliver either therapeutic benefits or adverse events. However, caffeine and sugar are present in amounts known to cause a variety of adverse health effects.

9

wrote …

Cool, thanks Mary. I appreciate your reference. I don't have time to dive into any research on the subject. So, I will hold my thoughts on the safety/efficacy issue. Although, I think we have pretty good understanding of the effects of high dose/ long term use/ of caffine. However, low dose, periodic intake of caffine has been shown to be beneficial...

Again, I want it to be known that my position on the meth/energy article is not supporting energy drinks. I just don't think that any reasonable comparison should be made between a meth addict or meth and an energy drink. In my opinion, the views in the article are fanatical.

And about my last comment on the Journal. No disrespect is meant. I only imply that a "journal" should present peer reviewed information that has been derived using a scientific method and findings should be repeatable. Otherwise, the use of the term Journal is highjacking a term that represents one of the most reliable sources of information in the world, namely Journals like 'Nature' et cetera. Those are some big shoes to fill. I think the use of journal is marketing of a product by using a recognizable name that implies a certain prestige and respect. Just like Monster, Amped, and Cocaine are marketing their products to a target market.

10

wrote …

As a nutritionist, I was kinda pleased to read this article. Sure it's not referenced, its an article (perhaps a little emotive) that provides an anecdotal account addressing an important issue. It may be "no news in the news" to some, but i think alot of people underestimate the health effects of the products they consume, not just occasionally, but daily. Hopefully this article will encourage people to think twice about their choice of beverage.

This is just my opinion (and opinions are like assholes.... everyone's got one) I think we totally underestimate the detrimental effects these caffeinated soft drinks have on health and development, particularly in the younger generations. The negative affect these products have on bone mineralization, insulin resistance, cognitive development, obesity, and associated disease progression is yet to be realized by the greater population. Sure caffeinated drinks may increase performance in the short-term, but isn't the common goal of the crossfitter one of optimal health and fitness in the long term?

11

wrote …

SO if you pull away all the smoke and mirrors from this article we are back to what most crossfitters already know, SUGAR IS BAD FOR YOU!!! There was 5 minutes I will never get back!! BJORN you are mixing apples with oranges .. you talk about the caffeinated soft drinks then go on to talk about insulin resistance, which is typically brought on by glucose in the system not caffeine.... one can exist without the other

12

wrote …

Yeah, i didn't want to crap on too long about the topic, but Caffeine increases cortisol release. Cortisol is catabolic and promotes gluconeogenesis, increasing blood sugar. Caffeine + Sugar in a can = increased blood sugar = insulin resistance over time.

13

wrote …

Bjorn, are you describing parts of the Hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis? Could you descibe that process in greater detail? Your insights have been great! Thanks for adding to the discussion.

I think that there is the potential for long term potentiation in the neural structures that are involved with the HPA axis and so a blunted stress response could be assosiated with increased caffine intake too. Is that correct?

Jeez, this caffine stuff is starting to sound dangerous!

14

wrote …

Energy drinks, hmmmm, where do those fall in? Let me think-

Meat, no
Vegetables, no
Nuts, no
Seeds, no
Fruit, no
Starch, no
Sugar, yes
Good for you, NO!

Robb Wolf was right, that definition comes in handy......

Try a balanced diet.

15

wrote …

I don't think i'd go as far as to say caffeine is "dangerous", but in the context of energy drink consumption, the products in general are detrimental to health. I suppose i am referring to the HPA axis. My understanding is that caffeine increases Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) release from the pituitary, stimulating glucocorticoid release (predominantly cortisol) from the adrenal glands. The "blunted stress response" that you mention is the adrenal exhaustion discussed in the article. Adrenal exhaustion is the result of chronic, high levels of the stress hormone Cortisol. The adrenals not only shut down production of this hormne, but as is the case with our old friend 'insulin resistance', receptors for these hormones are downregulated systemically, reducing sensitivity to the hormone and the negative feedback loop regulating its release. This leads to a state of chronic fatigue.
I'm not sure if this is the place for discussion on this topic? I'm new to the Journal, and feel like i've hijacked a comments page meant for comments about the article?? Anyhow...

16

wrote …

I'd sure love to see Rob Wolf wade in on this. Personally, I love coffee (the real kind >300 mg) and I'd hate to give it up. Having said that I go off it periodicly and it results in a week of mild headache and feeling generally terrible.

17

wrote …

thanks for explaining that BJORN...I didnt understand the correlation you were making between the two... James you are right about rob wolfs method ... but what about energy drinks without sugar? As with anything I think excess it the key ingredient here. There is a huge factor here, which is people propensity (not sure if thats the right word) to addition. Some people have one cigarette and are hooked, some people can smoke a pack a day for a month and quit cold turkey. I think those are the same people who would become addicted or take energy drinks to excess. WHat I was getting at earlier is the energy drink isnt the drug as much as the sugar is.

18

wrote …

Learned a lot today. Thanks Officer Graves and Bjorn.

19

Damon Stewart wrote …

This article seemed long on anecdotes and short on data. Sugar's bad, "excess" caffeine isn't great, nothing new.

20

wrote …

Yeah, I agree with some of the comments Dan made. I also would submit that you need to show more medical effects of the drinks. Pupil dilation, sweating, muscle fasciculations, heart rate - those are all great. But how about blood pressure before and after? Or a dose-response chart showing the increase in heart rate and blood pressure with increasing "doses" of energy drinks? EKG's? The dose-responses of different individuals with different body compositions?

I'm not a fan of energy drinks either. I used to drink Red Ballz and during that period I had elevated BP, but my anecdotal experience doesn't quite pass for scientific rigor, and I don't think the article quite hits that mark either.

21

wrote …

In defense of “Meth in a Can”

The field of research regarding the effects of habitual caffeine use is immense, just getting up steam, and involves everything from research at the cellular level in mice to athletes during workouts, the pathological consequences of stress, and the inhibition of invivo tumor growth (Rossi; Cheuvront; Mandal.)

Science has frequently utilized self-report measures of caffeine use, such as is given by Officer Graves in his report on “Meth in a Can”. This has been found to be a valid method of predicting actual caffeine levels according to a recent study by Addicott et al. Traditionally, in the Medical literature single cases have been reported in an effort to alert other Physicians to a possible danger---no data, such as the one reported by Cua. This is useful and has often resulted in scientific data being generated and published.

Officer Graves' education and vast dedicated experience in a dangerous profession that is both physically and mentally challenging qualifies him to make these observations, which join the vastly varied scientific mix regarding the actions of caffeine on cerebral blood flow and neural activity.

REFERENCES
Rossi S, De Chiara V, Musella A, Mataluni G, Sacchetti L, Siracusano A, Bernardi G, Usiello A, Centonze D Caffeine drinking potentiates cannabinoid transmission in the striatum: Interaction with stress effects. Neuropharmacology. 2008 Nov 8. Clinica Neurologica, Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Università Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy; Centro Europeo per la Ricerca sul Cervello (CERC), Fondazione Santa Lucia, Rome, Italy.

Cheuvront SN, Ely BR, Kenefick RW, Michniak-Kohn BB, Rood JC, Sawka MN. No effect of nutritional adenosine receptor antagonists on exercise performance in the heat. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2008 Nov 19.

Mandal A, Poddar MK: Long-Term Caffeine Consumption Reverses Tumor-Induced Suppression of the Innate Immune Response in Adult Mice. Planta Med. 2008 Nov 18. Department of Biochemistry, University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India.

Addicott MA, Yang LL, Peiffer AM, Laurienti PJ.: Methodological considerations for the quantification of self-reported caffeine use. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2008 Nov 15. Department of Radiology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Medical Center Blvd, Winston-Salem, NC, 27157, USA.

Cua WL, Pease Campbell JA, Stewart JT.: A case of Ventricular Tachycardia Related to Caffeine Pretreatment, J ECT. 2008 Nov 7

22

wrote …

Great article. It made me think of the YouTube video "PowerThirst"

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

23

wrote …

Sugar (if indeed it is sugar in these drinks, and not high fructose corn syrup) is the least of your worries. Do a little research into phenylalanine, and HFCS, and the range of other sweeteners that replace sugar in our foods, and you may find that sugar comes out looking positively squeaky clean in comparison to the dangers posed by the other guys.

Not to mention that all of this non-food comes in an aluminium can, which is reason enough not to drink the sh*t

24

wrote …

Well there is always some crusade to deem something not "healthy" for daily consumption. Well Morphine isn't something I'd start my day with, but sure does come in handy when I about to be cut open for surgery. Same thing here. Sugar is bad, fat is bad, of course caffeine(a drug of which I believe 5 grams of, is enough to kill you) can be bad. I stress the "can", since in moderation it does give you a boost, over consumption causes dependance. But over consumption of sugar, can cause obesity, which comes with a whole slew of its own very deadly problems.

I think caffeine is not nearly as dangerous as say, ephedrine, which is now illegal, since someone somewhere died from its use. Never mind that probably more people die from alcohol poisoning in one night, than deaths from ephedrine in a year.

Either way, this seems kind of nit-picky to attack energy drinks. American society doesn't stop after the sun sets, and just like "meth" was deemed the drug for america when it was first released on the market, and every doctor scripted it, for problems ranging from headaches to constipation.

Now abuse of caffeine, is another story, but thats more of a psychological issue, than one to do with the product. Like I hinted earlier, a 40oz can of beer has more deadly potential and side-effects if abused than an energy drink.

People will go overboard with anything you give them. But I think blaming the product vs blaming the consumer who uses the product with no regard for personal well being, is silly. Most people who need a cup of coffee to start the day and who realize it doesn't give them that boost they like, should stop drinking the stuff for a while and let their tolerance go down, instead of doubling up their dose. However just because they keep going, doesn't mean something is wrong with the product, only because it is not used properly by the consumer(i.e. ephedrine, no one has died while using it in a prudent and safe manner, every horror story I heard has basically been about someone with no common sense doing something that sounds dangerous even if they weren't on ephedrine, like not eating and only drinking water, or not even drinking water and staying up for days, heck what did they think, a pill can make them suck pure energy out of the air and make them immortal?)

Seriously, I think this article makes a good point of educating us on the dangers of these products. But I think there is nothing inherently wrong with them, but in the manner that they are sometimes applied.

Just my .02... now I'm gonna go get a redbull out of my car, cuz it does still give me a boost and its sugar free, and i just hate the taste of coffee with splenda in it.

25

wrote …

Thank you for the article. I'm going to use it as my cue to cut out all stimulants. I have been addicted to energy drinks for at least a year and drink one almost every day. I've known that they are bad for me but not sure exactly why. Your article was very informative and straight to the point. You said, "Get off the meth," and that's exactly what i'm going to do.

26

wrote …

Dan, loved your comment about the use of the word "Journal" the articles do seem to be becoming a little less peer reviewed and more like a magazine.

27

wrote …

Dan and Jay,
The CrossFit Journal never has been, and never will be, peer reviewed. Getting others to agree with your work has nothing whatsoever to do with real science. The high carb, low fat diet was peer reviewed. The danger of squatting below parallel was peer reviewed. Coach Glassman was kicked out of every gym he worked for because his methods were "dangerous" and his ethic incompatible with the existing culture. His "peers" rejected his ideas completely.

Now, if you wish to criticize this article for being superficial, excessively anecdotal, over-simplified, puritanical, or downright wrong, then this is your forum. If you wish to add references to studies that support or contradict the article, this is your forum. One of the key reasons we switched formats is to have this forum. The article alone is the starting point, not the end. The article with the ensuing discussion has the potential to be many times more valuable than the article alone.

The purpose of the CrossFit Journal is to support the pursuit of a real world fitness. We define fitness as an increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains throughout your life. The way to achieve that broad capacity is to perform a wide variety of functional movements at relatively high intensity. Simple to say, hard to achieve and sustain.

We'll have published 29 articles in November. While I believe that all of them support some aspect of achieving higher levels of fitness yourself and/or training others toward that end, I don't pretend that all articles will be relevant to all subscribers.

About this article, there is no doubt that excessive use of stimulants is harmful,and there's no way you're going to optimize your long term performance with the kinds of quantities described in the article. I personally believe that modest quantities of caffeine can boost performance, much like I believe that cheat days with an otherwise very strict diet can boost performance. But I didn't write the article. We've also published Robb Wolf saying caffeine is a gift from heaven. Did he mean in unlimited quantities? I don't think so. But this is the place to debate it.

28

wrote …

All things in moderation, including moderation.

29

wrote …

Definitely in this community, there has been a clear movement away from the superiority of the peer review towards open analysis and debate, and this article is a perfect example of why. You don't need a doctorate to participate in the discussion, and with a degree of external moderating, the article can be challenged, vindicated, and dissected by both scientific and practical approaches from anyone with the knowledge and persistence to do so.

Peer reviewed journals provide a moderating force in the scientific community that is, in some sciences, necessary. The problem with peer review, however, is that the very credentials necessary to have a voice in the discussion may deter you from challenging the status quo simply to keep that right. In the case of strength, conditioning (and to a certain degree nutrition), accuracy and rigorousness of your data may not count if there is an inherent bias in the standing community towards an already-present doctrine. Perhaps these articles don't always meet the scientific rigour of a peer-reviewed journal, but you can learn a lot more from the discussion of this 'non-rigorous' journal (I've certainly learned a great deal from this discussion) than a peer-reviewed article about the effect of an exercise program on an untrained population.

30

Joshua Hunnicutt wrote …

I agree with the comments on how dangerous the amount of caffeine in these "meth's" are, and I'm definately not trying to try and defend them. On the other hand, I think that the sidebar on page two is a bit exaggerated. I had my Chiropractor/friend explain the validity of the statements, and he had few minor qualms. I let him divulge:

Ginseng is not itself a stimulant. It is among the group of supplements known as adaptogens. Adaptogens actually have a very positive influence on the HPA and adreno-cortical systems. By itself, a very good supplement to overcome the caffeine dependency, but this also raises issues, because in combinations with caffeine, eg the meth drinks, your body has a longer lasting effect and so will rebound even harder because you are facilitating the caffeine's effectiveness.

L-carnitine: is an amazing, amazing supplement. It is simply an amino acid. It is absolutely necessary for proper heart function and any natural health practitioner that is not utilizing its effects with people post MI (heart attack) or other heart/cardiovascular issues is in my mind doing their patient an injustice. It works to shuttle ATP across the mitochondrial membrane and thus increase work, and can be taken safely and effectively to help burn fat in any person, but I concede the use of it in these "meth" drinks is limited in effect.

For the most part, the effective part of the meth drinks is the caffeine, bar none. The other things help your body deal with the shock that is dealt to the body due to the HUGE dose of caffeine that you are ingesting (the listed caffeine is usually only the ADDED caffeine, not including the caffeine naturally occurring in the gurana and other "natural" additives).

I totally agree, and have seen the results of "getting off the meth" and don't advocate the use of them, but I just wanted to have the proper light shed on those two ingredients which were portrayed in a negative light.

31

wrote …

I realize I'm late to the party but this article makes some interesting points and is certainly a good launch pad for discussion. But as it is written, it is far too one-sided to be viewed as a sound exposition of this topic.

To wit: anecdotally we all know a cup of coffee can increase performance of physical and mental tasks, and if we don't know it anecdotally we can find plenty of more rigorous evidence to support that claim. This article mentions none of that information, even if to refute it. At least then the risk-reward discussion could take place.

But if we concede that caffiene increases stamina, mental acuity, reaction times, etc... why would we not take it? The obvious answer is health, which is what 12bravo seems to rely on. But the consequences listed here are quite imprecise. This is not an issue of being peer-reviewed or not, but rather lacking rigor. We're all familiar with the dose-response paradigm, so at what dose does the response to caffiene go from potentially positive to wholly negative? Surely that third cup of coffee once a week doesn't decrease bone density in the same fashion that taking five No Doz on a daily basis would.

A group of people who practice evidence-based fitness ought to require answers to questions like that, especially when some of CF's nutrition gurus think of caffiene as a gift from the gods and note that all-cause mortality decreases with increased caffiene consumption. It'd be interesting to hear the take of the guys who give nutrition certs with Starbucks in hand.

While meth and caffiene might share some of the same side effects, the addiction to caffiene doesn't lead to too many felonies so any comparison that equates the two based on observations of nervous ticks is facile. Perhaps a better take-home message would be that those who require energy drinks to regulate mood and energy levels might consider better exercise and nutrition habits. I'm sure no one would disagree with that.

32

wrote …

I agree with Patrick, that if you need caffiene or energy drinks to moderate your mood then you should look at ways to reduce your intake to a more moderate level. I drink the odd energy drink when I am driving and I am feeling drowsy because I would rather pound an energy drink then ending up dead in the dich.

I think that this article was a bit over the top but it has made me reflect on my caffiene intake and consider reducing it.

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