Racing fuel mountain dew

Let’s talk about “dewshine.” The CDC is pretty sure that two Tennessee teenagers who died earlier this year overdid it on an insane cocktail of Mountain Dew and racing fuel, an even more twisted variation on the soda-and-poison theme laid out by purple drank. Sobriety-hating humans have a long history of cutting toxic substances with better-tasting liquids — in this case, the acid-green ambrosia long peddled by PepsiCo — but no amount of Voltage or Baja Blast can temper the eye-watering and potentially life-ending burn of racing fuel.

Is it too idealistic to dream of a nation where teenagers are smart enough not to ingest anything intended to be pumped into the back end of a car? The case of dewshine forces us to nod our heads in reluctant affirmation. In choosing racing fuel as their intoxicant of choice, young people are showcasing their ignorance of this basic chemistry. Is methanol ethanol? No, no it is not. While the latter can be safely imbibed with temporary, though nauseating, consequences, drinking the former might kill you and will likely blind you.

Nonetheless, racing fuel containing methanol has, according to HotRod.com, “come back in a big way.” For the underage set, it’s probably easier to get than ethanol itself.

To be fair, humans have been getting the two confused for centuries. For those grasping desperately at intoxicants, it’s easy to look at “methyl alcohol” and “ethyl alcohol” — more cumbersome names for methanol and ethanol — and ignore the chemical prefixes. To do so is, to put it lightly, fucking dumb: The terms refer to structural differences between the two chemicals (methanol has one methyl group, while ethanol has two), which dictate the way our body metabolizes them.

Flooding the body with the powerfully citrusy admixture of Mountain Dew and methanol causes the body to undergo metabolic acidosis; that is, the blood gets dangerously acidic. When its ingested, methanol is first metabolized into the chemical formaldehyde — yes, the same substance we bathe corpses and preserve pigs in — and then into formic acid, which is what actually shuts the body party down.

Methyl and ethyl alcohol, also known as methanol and ethanol, have very different effects when imbibed with Mountain Dew.

The increasingly bleary eyesight that results from dewshine bingeing — it just takes 10 milliliters to cause vision loss — is thought to be the result of formic acid causing changes to the eye’s fundus within the rest few hours. Eventually, water pools in the retina and the optic disc, causing a condition known as edema, and hyperemia — an excess of blood — ensues. Unless the formic acid is filtered out of the body through, say, dialysis, blindness could set in after as little as 48 hours.

Drinking as little as 15 milliliters of pure methanol (roughly two U.S. tablespoons worth) enough to kill a person. It’s not immediately noticeable. Sucking it down does, admittedly, get you drunk — like ethanol, it’s a depressant of the central nervous system — but its inebriating effects are generally less intense than those of booze itself, at least at first. But about 10 hours after drinking, a set of secondary symptoms sets in, which include the aforementioned blindness and acidosis. The slow buildup of formic acid in the body eventually causes respiratory failure, which, in most cases, is synonymous with death.

The fatalities earlier this year can’t be good for Pepsi’s throwback to Mountain Dew’s roots, the high-caffeine, crystalline Dew variant known as — yup — Dewshine, which launched last year. While the new Dew product is not alcoholic, Dewshine was, when it originated in the “gnarled backwoods” of Tennessee, essentially moonshine. Whether the methanol-laced cocktail was actually inspired by its historic namesake remains to be seen (or, let’s be real — not).

The beverages in the Mountain Dew family are potent enough in their original forms. Adding racing fuel to the mix is unnecessary adulteration, dangerous and disrespectful. Dewshine, a debased concoction, presents an extreme case, one in which doing the Dew is ill advised.

Second teen dies after drinking racing fuel mixed with soda

Nicole Young Robertson County Times Published 2:44 PM EST Jan 27, 2016

A second Greenbrier teen has died and two more received medial treatment after officials said they drank a mixture of Mountain Dew and racing fuel last week.

A shrine has been placed in the parking lot of Greenbrier High School for Logan Stephenson, who died Thursday, Jan. 21, after possibly drinking racing fuel mixed with soda. A vigil was held for the teen last week, according to Greenbrier police. Nicole Young / Robertson County Times

On Thursday, Jan. 21, authorities were called to the Franklin Farms home of 16-year-old Logan Stephenson, who was found dead in his bed.

Within minutes, they were called to a second home, on Cemetery Road, because the boy’s best friend had begun having seizures, Greenbrier Police Chief K.D. Smith said in an earlier interview with The Times.

Authorities have not released the identity of the second teen, but Smith confirmed Tuesday that the medical examiner’s office had notified his department of the second teen’s death that morning. The Robertson County Sheriff’s Office also released a statement Tuesday, confirming the second teen’s death.

Spokesman Ryan Martin said the boy died Monday afternoon, and the Robertson County Sheriff’s Office was notified later that same day.

“We ask that everyone continue to pray for both of these families as they go through this tragic time,” Sheriff Bill Holt said in the department’s Tuesday release.

Since Stephenson’s death, two other teens have come forward, claiming they had drunk a similar substance, Smith said.

Four cases from Robertson County have been recorded with the Tennessee Poison Center, according to medical director Dr. Donna Seger.

Two of the teenagers were treated and released from two different emergency departments, Seger said.

Both teens said they had consumed a mixture of Mountain Dew and racing fuel, she said.

The investigation into the deaths of Stephenson and his best friend are ongoing. Police have not confirmed at this time whether the boys had actually consumed the substance because they are waiting for autopsy reports from the medical examiner’s office that will determine cause of death, Smith said.

Meanwhile, investigators are urging community members to stop posting rumors about the case on social media sites, according to the release from the Robertson County Sheriff’s Office.

The rumors “are deeply disturbing and harmful to the families that are already going through a tragic time of loss,” the release said.

Robertson County Schools have been closed since before Stephenson’s death because of inclement weather, but Schools Director Mike Davis said Tuesday that the system was planning to have extra counselors at Greenbrier High School when the students resume classes.

“Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the parents and family members of these young men,” Davis said. “I think we will make the special effort to inform students of the dangers related to the deaths of these boys. We need to be reminding kids to make good choices.”

Funeral services were held Tuesday for Stephenson, according to his obituary.

Logan was born May 25, 1999 in Hermitage, Tenn. to Wayne Stephenson, Jr. and Beth Daniel. He was a student at Greenbrier High School.

In addition to his parents, Logan is survived by his stepmother, Mickie Stephenson; stepfather, Kevin Daniel; grandparents, Wayne A. (Shirley) Stephenson, Sr., John (Sharon) Shane; brothers, Luke Daniel, Trevor Boles; sisters, McKenzie Stephenson, Lindsey Mays, Riley Daniel and Audrey Boles, his obituary said.

Logan Stephenson Submitted photo

The Stephenson family is collecting funds in Logan’s memory.

“The family will be meeting with the school to discuss how to disburse these funds,” the obituary reads. “Their desire is that it will be used to educate children of the many dangers which they face which parents are not aware of and therefore not able to warn them.”

Austin & Bell Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.

Reporter Cheri Reeves contributed to this report.

Published 2:44 PM EST Jan 27, 2016

Health officials are warning about the dangers of a potentially deadly homemade concoction of racing fuel and soft drinks some teens are consuming to get drunk.

In a report released today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documents the deaths of two Tennessee adolescents who ingested the mixture at a party. Two other teens who drank it became intoxicated but survived. According the Tennessee Poison Center, which first investigated the deaths in January, the teens mixed methanol with Mountain Dew to make a lethal concoction known as Dewshine.

Racing fuel contains virtually 100 percent methanol, an organic solvent commonly found in laboratory, industrial, automotive, and residential products. As little as 1 tablespoon of methanol can be fatal.

Police reported that the teens obtained a half gallon of racing fuel and mixed an unknown amount into a two liter bottle of soda. The two survivors reported drinking two ounces of the mixture. It is unknown how much the two teens who died consumed.

Both of the deceased were 16-year-old boys. The first was found dead at home approximately 11 hours after ingesting the mixture. The second experienced seizures at home about 12 hours after drinking it and was transported to a local emergency department. He died five days later.

Why teenagers do stupid things

These are the first reported deaths in the U.S. associated with drinking this racing fuel mixture.

Drinking the concoction can trigger nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, blurred vision, seizures, coma and death, depending on how much methanol is consumed, experts say. Methanol can also damage the retina and lead to permanent blindness.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers’ Toxic Exposure Surveillance System reports 7,183 cases of methanol exposure for the period between 2011 and 2014. Of these exposures, 660 (about 9 percent) were intentional. Thirty-three people died as a result.

The CDC is urging parents, educators, community leaders, medical personnel and public health officials to reinforce the message that methanol is a highly toxic substance that can cause serious illness and death.

Why On Earth Would Two Teens Drink Racing Fuel?

Four teenagers in Robertson County, Tennessee, reportedly drank a mixture of racing fuel and Mountain Dew this past week, killing two and hospitalizing the other two. Dubbed “Dewshine,” it has the internet scrambling to understand what it is and why anyone would think drinking it is okay.

Logan Stephenson, 16, died on Thursday, and J.D. Byram, also 16, died Tuesday morning, reports NBC. “A lot of people refer to it as ‘moonshine on steroids,’” Greenbrier Police Chief K.D. Smith told NBC News.

Moonshine on steroids is an apt descriptor. Dewshine is technically the term for mixing Mountain Dew or Sundrop and moonshine. Incidentally, Mountain Dew is a soft drink originally made by two Tennessee brothers to mix with hard liquor; it’s named after a common slang for moonshine. Pepsi even went as far as to recently release a glass bottle version of the soda nodding back to Prohibition-era design.

But there’s another reason it’s fitting to refer to racing fuel and Mountain Dew as “Dewshine.” Racing fuel is often 100 percent methanol. And methanol has a history of use in bad bootleg liquor that goes back to the earliest days of bad bootleg liquor, and has a number of deaths to show for it. Racing fuel, or street gasoline, is used in drag racing, a popular pastime in rural enclaves. It’s high octane gas that sometimes includes lead and many other ingredients that should never be ingested. (This is different from the more commonly heard-of practice of huffing gas, which can also be fatal, as can accidentally swallowing it, or rarer, drinking it.)

“You don’t want to drink methanol,” says Dr. Donna Seger, medical director of Tennessee Poison Control, by phone. Seger said she’s not aware of any other cases of such ingestion in the state outside of these four the center was involved with, but she understands why teenagers might confuse the substances.

“It’s going to feel similar at first to getting drunk on ethanol,” Seger said. “So they may have thought they were just substituting methanol for ethanol.”

And therein lies the problem: Ethanol is, basically, the drinkable form of alcohol. Methanol, or wood alcohol, is not. It’s the stuff used in windshield wiper fluid and paint thinners. Both ethanol and methanol are both toxic to your body—any alcohol is a poison. But the molecular difference? One carbon atom and two hydrogen atoms. “That’s enough to change the liver’s path toward expelling the two poisons, which accounts for methanol’s outsized danger,” explains LiveScience.

For whatever reason, the body can deal with ethanol, which, though a toxin, it eventually turns into carbon dioxide and water. But not methanol, which the liver converts to formaldehyde, then formic acid. Methanol in the body basically leads to instant alcohol poisoning, and requires less alcohol to do it. It only takes two to eight ounces of the stuff to kill an adult, and just two tablespoons for a child. Imagine feeling the effects of extreme binge drinking after downing a couple of shots of vodka.

Ingesting methanol also leads to severe acidosis, which is a state of excessive blood acidity that is “incompatible with life,” Seger said. “It causes your heart to stop, your organs to shut down. Liver. Kidneys. They can’t function. It can also cause blindness because it metabolizes in the eyes.”

Going blind from drinking bad moonshine—which is, again, essentially methanol—is the stuff of legend. According to The Poisoner’s Handbook, it became extremely common during Prohibition:

“Industrial” alcohol was basically grain alcohol (ethanol) with other chemicals mixed in to make it undrinkable, methanol was one of the common additives. The adding of these chemicals was required by law after Prohibition to prevent industrial alcohol from being used as a beverage. Basically, the government ordered the alcohol to be laced with chemicals that would make it undrinkable. As a result, there were many bootleggers who attempted to make industrial alcohol drinkable and less toxic by redistilling, diluting or mixing it with other chemicals. None of these procedures was particularly effective, and people who chose to drink alcohol illegally would be risking their lives.

This helped industrial and automotive alcohol manufacturers get around paying the much higher taxes on beverage alcohol, and as a result, the era is rife with tales of the slow deaths and eventual blindness related to drinking that tainted methanol booze. Even today, homemade moonshine-making still produces a bit of methanol, which is why you toss the first batch off the boil. More surprisingly, people around the world still die from drinking methanol moonshine. In June of 2015, close to a 100 people in Mumbai died from methanol poisoning after drinking moonshine poisoned with methanol, or what they call “country liquor,” and 168 were killed in a similar incident in West Bengal in 2011.

In essence, when you’re drinking methanol in any form, you may as well be drinking varnish. Whatever buzz may come initially is certainly not worth the risk. The Tennessee Poison Center posted a more detailed medical explanation of the potential consequences on its website in a post called “Do you DEWshine?” responding to the flood of inquiries about the fatal mixture. Early symptoms are nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, and depression of the central nervous system, and it can take from 12 to 24 hours to experience them, meaning it’s entirely possible if those teenagers did drink racing fuel, it might have felt a lot like just being drunk at first. Except one teenager was then found dead in his bed the next morning.

If intercepted early enough the treatment for methanol poisoning, Seger says, is sodium bicarbonate for the acidosis combined with fomepizole, a drug used for accidental poisoning by ethylene glycol (antifreeze) or methanol. Interestingly, emergency rooms used to treat accidental poisoning of methanol with the form of alcohol you can drink: ethanol. It delayed the metabolizing of methanol by the body by acting as an inhibitor in the enzyme.

While autopsy reports on the two teenagers won’t be available for up to two weeks, rumors alone of the possibility of such concoctions being consumed by teens desperate for a buzz is reason enough to get the warning out. The family of teen Logan Stephenson has set up a GoFundMe page for funds they say they’ll use to raise awareness about the dangers.

Teens die after drinking Mountain Dew, racing fuel mix

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NASHVILLE — A second Greenbrier teen has died and two more received medical treatment after officials said they drank a mixture of Mountain Dew and methanol racing fuel last week.

On Thursday, authorities were called to the Franklin Farms home of 16-year-old Logan Stephenson, who was found dead in his bed.

Within minutes, they were called to a second home, on Cemetery Road, because the boy’s best friend had begun having seizures, Greenbrier Police Chief K.D. Smith said.

Authorities have not released the identity of the second teen, but Smith confirmed Tuesday that the medical examiner’s office had notified his department of the second teen’s death that morning. The Robertson County Sheriff’s Office also released a statement Tuesday confirming the second teen’s death.

Spokesman Ryan Martin said the boy died Monday afternoon, and the Sheriff’s Office was notified later that same day.

“We ask that everyone continue to pray for both of these families as they go through this tragic time,” Sheriff Bill Holt said in the department’s Tuesday release.

Since Stephenson’s death, two other teens have come forward, claiming they drank a similar substance, Smith said.

Four cases from Robertson County have been recorded with the Tennessee Poison Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, according to medical director Dr. Donna Seger.

Two of the teenagers were treated and released from two different emergency departments, Seger said.

Both teens said they had consumed a mixture of Mountain Dew and racing fuel, she said.

“They thought they knew what it was, that it was a substitute for alcohol,” Seger said. “They thought they would get the same effects as alcohol, but they weren’t aware of how toxic it was.”

Racing fuel, used in drag racing, is made up of almost 100% methanol, a non-drinkable form of alcohol used for industrial and automotive purposes, Seger said.

Initially, methanol can give the same effects as ethanol, which is used in the production of alcoholic beverages, but over time, it can result in symptoms ranging from blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea to seizures, blindness, coma and death, depending on the amount and concentration of the methanol that was consumed, Seger said.

The investigation into the deaths of Stephenson and his best friend are ongoing. Police have not confirmed whether the boys had actually consumed the substance pending autopsy reports from the medical examiner’s office, Smith said.

The rumors “are deeply disturbing and harmful to the families that are already going through a tragic time of loss,” the release said.

Methanol is extremely poisonous and as little as two tablespoons can be deadly to a child, according to the National Institutes of Health website.

About two to eight ounces can be deadly for an adult, and the success of treatment is often determined by how much poison a person swallowed and how soon he or she received medical attention, the website says.

Heath workers are not aware of how prevalent Dewshine consumption is among Tennesseans, Seger said.

“These two deaths have brought it to our attention,” she said. “We have to try to make sure that adolescents are aware of the toxicity. Kids usually communicate more among themselves, and we need to make more kids aware of this, statewide.”

Health officials at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have notified the Department of Health about the situation, Seger said.

She also said she was not aware of any other cases involving Dewshine consumption outside of Tennessee.

Meanwhile, investigators urged community members to stop posting rumors about the case on social media sites, according to the release from the Robertson County Sheriff’s Office.

Robertson County Schools have been closed since before Stephenson’s death because of inclement weather, but Schools Director Mike Davis said Tuesday that the system was planning to have extra counselors at Greenbrier High School when the students resume classes.

“Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the parents and family members of these young men,” Davis said. “I think we will make the special effort to inform students of the dangers related to the deaths of these boys. We need to be reminding kids to make good choices.”

The Stephenson family is collecting funds in Logan’s memory with a GoFundMe page, saying they will use the funds to educate teens and families about substance-abuse dangers.

Contributing: Cheri Reeves, The Tennessean. Follow Nicole Young on Twitter: @nyoung80