Energized Energy Drinks
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RadiumWe’re not big fans of energy drinks ourselves, but a lot of our students love them. What they probably don’t know is that energy drinks go back a hundred years. But in those days the energy they contained was, well, real.

They contained radium and gave people a shot of radioactive energy! Radium is a soft, shiny radioactive metal that releases three million times the radioactivity of uranium. And it has a half-life of 1,600 years. But people in the early 1900s didn’t know any better and drank the radioactive beverages.

One drink sold in the 1930s was called RadiThor. At a hefty five bucks for a two ounce bottle, it contained one microcurie of radium dissolved in water. The producer claimed RadiThor provided an energy boost and cured problems such as impotence.

One famous customer was a wealthy industrialist and amateur golfer champion, Eben Byers. Little did he know that radium causes anemia, cataracts, cancer and even death. He drank two to three bottles of RadiThor a day and after two years, his teeth fell out. He then lost most of his upper and lower jaw and holes formed in his skull. He was admitted to a hospital and died at age 52.

Estimates are his body contained four times the lethal dose of radium, but in 1965 when they exhumed his body, the levels were two times higher than even that. He continues to be highly radioactive in his lead lined coffin.

By the time RadiThor had been pulled from shelves it had sold nearly half a million bottles and the maker was a wealthy man. Today’s energy drinks aren’t radioactive, but they carry risks of their own such as raising heart rates and blood pressure - especially in children.

For more information…

When Energy Drinks Contained Real (Radioactive) Energy
Though emblematic of our time, energy drinks aren't an invention of the new millennium. People have relied on them to combat fatigue for at least a century....

The Playboy and the Radium Girls [PDF]
Great article about RadiThor and the death of wealthy industrialist Eben Byers from radium poisoning

Energy Drinks
Between 2007 and 2011, the overall number of energy-drink related visits to emergency departments doubled, with the most significant increase (279 percent) in people aged 40 and older. A growing trend among young adults and teens is mixing energy drinks with alcohol. About 25 percent of college students consume alcohol with energy drinks, and they binge-drink significantly more often than students who don’t mix them...