Ask The Pharmacist: Should the government control your latte?

Suzy Cohen
File picture - a cafe latte.

It’s so sad, and breaks my heart that a 16-year-old boy died from an arrhythmia that occurred from ingesting too many caffeinated stimulants. According to the news, the lethal combination included a large Mountain Dew, a latte from McDonald’s and an energy drink, all within two hours. Just FYI, most energy shots contain guarana and ginseng or other stimulants. The tragedy has increased awareness for many families as well as regulatory agencies.

Should health agencies regulate the amount of caffeine put into coffee and energy drinks, in the same manner that they do tobacco? They are even considering restrictions and a ban.
I don’t want the establishment having any say-so about the amount of caffeine in my caramel macchiato or Red Bull. It’s understood when I drink one of these or take a Vivarin, or whatever my choice is that I’m going to feel a jolt. Last week, I tried pure Coffeeberry fruit extract and consumed what amounted to at least 800mg all at once. My head buzzed for a few hours, and I was nauseous but I am used to caffeine, so I knew I would be okay.
I think it’s horrible that certain companies have marketing campaigns aimed directly at children. I also think the manufacturers of these beverages should take some blame and they should stop increasing caffeine levels just to get a jump on their competitor and come up with their next marketing shtick.
And there is some personal accountability just as there is with alcohol. When you drink too much alcohol, there is a natural consequence of feeling sick and hungover. Perhaps the consequence is not so obvious with caffeine. One challenge that parents face is that cappuccinos, energy shots, Mountain Dew and others are all legal substances (and they should be) so abuse of them is uncomplicated due to easy access.

How do you feel?

  1. Is caffeine a strong and potentially dangerous stimulant or not?
  2. Does caffeine impact certain people worse than another, like children or elderly, or those with vascular compromise (known or unknown).

Would you like to share your opinion? Write me at, I’d love to know you’re thoughts.
I have a pharmacist’s perspective so for me, number one is “no” because pure caffeine doesn’t even come close to prescription ADHD stimulants such as methylphenidate or the famous combo drug which consists of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Amphetamine is known on the street as “speed” or “whizz.” These drugs are dispensed to children by the millions on a daily basis and suddenly a Monster’s a problem?! Or a Mocha Latte? Do you truly get what I’m saying here?
The answer to number two is “yes,” caffeine is metabolized more slowly by all the above groups and will raise blood pressure and cause arrhythmia’s more frequently. Have open conversations with your kids about this, because their peers are encouraging abuse of these drinks in order to increase alertness and ‘smartness’ before exams. It’s sad but true.

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit