Dec 042006

Cocaine is legal.

At least in the form of an energy drink.

This year, Cocaine Energy Drink entered the caffeinated drink market, along with 500 other new drinks, in hopes of cashing in on the growing craze.

Touted as “The Legal Alternative,” Cocaine is only sold in six states, not including Colorado.

But other drinks are energizing the state.

Rockstar and Monster are hot commodities at Cam’s Lobby Shop in the Lory Student Center, said sophomore business major Alyssa Dittman, who works in the store.

“In the morning, probably every third person is buying (an energy drink),” she said.

“It must be worth it to be energized,” Dittman added, although she thinks the effect of energy drinks could be psychological.

Although little research has been done, studies show caffeine mixed with alcohol makes people think they’re less drunk than they actually are, according to Dr. Jane Higgins, a staff physician at Hartshorn Health Service.

There is no proof that caffeine dulls the effects of alcohol, she said.

Dittman prefers Amp over the myriad of other energy products because of the flavor, but she doesn’t drink it often. If she has a late night, Dittman says she’ll crack one open to keep her going.

“There is evidence that the combination of caffeine and sugar increases accuracy and speed of reaction,” Higgins said. “But it’s questionable in complex tasks.”

Soft drinks and energy drinks have many of the same ingredients, but energy drinks are considered “high performance energy supplements” and “vitalizers.”

Names like Red Bull, No Fear, Go Fast and Sobe Adrenaline Rush add to the idea of increased alertness and performance.

“It doesn’t hurt me,” Dittman said of her habit, “except for the calories and caffeine.”

In cans two-thirds the size of a normal soda can, most energy drinks have two to four times the amount of caffeine as a Coca Cola, according to a study by the University of Florida.

Most people can take in 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine a day with no adverse affects, Higgins said. But kids, elderly people and people with medical conditions such as diabetes, ulcers, anxiety and schizophrenia can only safely tolerate a fraction of that.

Dittman said caffeine doesn’t have much effect on her, but energy drinks do make her roommate hyper.

“Two sips and she doesn’t need any more,” Dittman said.

A can of Coca Cola Classic has 34 milligrams of caffeine as compared to an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee, which has about 107 milligrams of caffeine. A 16-ounce can of Rockstar Energy Drink tops off at 160 milligrams of caffeine, according to The Energy Fiend Web site,

From 2000 to 2004, there were 265 cases of caffeine abuse in the United States and 31 people were admitted into intensive care because of effects like chest pain and heart palpitations, Higgins said. However, all 31 cases involved people taking excess caffeine to get high, she added.

Because of potential health risks, some people believe energy drinks should be regulated and include warnings on the cans, but Higgins disagrees.

“Most experts don’t consider caffeine a drug of abuse,” she said, adding caffeine doesn’t affect the center of the brain like alcohol and cocaine do. “People create a tolerance to caffeine, but they typically don’t have to increase intake to compensate.”

Staff writer Heather Hawkins can be reached at

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