I, Elinor Davis Melick, am SOLELY responsible for my own bad decisions. The Thrill is not liable for any adverse health effects I may experience as a result of this experiment, and The Thrill staff in no way endorses or condones excessive caffeine consumption, not even for the sake of content.
And kids––don’t try this at home.
If there are two things I love, it’s breaking rules and doing shots. So from the moment I read the “Warning: Limit 2/Day” on the label of a SToK-brand shot of caffeine, I knew what I had to do: take 10 of them.
Caffeine is crazy because the world collectively decided it’s not a real drug and that it’s normal to be addicted to it, even though it’s definitely a drug and everyone would lose their goddamn minds if all coffee suddenly disappeared. I don’t have any problems with that, I just think it’s crazy.
Every shot contains 40 mg of caffeine, a little less than an average shot of espresso. For context, a standard cup of coffee clocks in around 100 mg. (Peirce coffee is maybe 50, on a good day). Most adults can consume up to 400 mg of caffeine a day before it’s considered problematic, at least from a general medical standpoint. So 10 SToK coffee shots over the course of a day is hardly anything to write home about, but I figured 10 shots would be enough to write about for The Thrill.
SToK’s labels warn that their coffee shots are “not for those under 18, pregnant, or caffeine-sensitive.” As far as I know, I’m none of those things. My caffeine tolerance is pretty high, not as high as it was in high school when I drank eight cups of coffee a day because it was the only thing that made me feel even remotely alive, but it’s still pretty high. Even so, 400 mg of caffeine at once is kind of a lot. Maybe even enough to make me feel alive again, who knows? That’s why it’s called science.
Everyone has been really dramatic about this thing. A number of people told me I was going to, and I quote, “die.” I originally pitched this back in November, then again in January, but some of the editors were so “worried” about my “health” that they weren’t going to let me do it. I had to throw the full book of rhetorical appeals their way, pointing out that I was going to take 10 coffee shots anyways so they might as well let me write about it (ethos), and sharing my research on Stok products and caffeine content advisories (logos). I used Pathos, too, but that one’s personal.
I was finally given the green light this week, so I set about designing a thorough, reasonably safe study, keeping potential confounds and experimenter biases in mind. The IRB never got back to me, but I went ahead at my own discretion. I decided to power-hour it, taking one shot every five minutes, so that I would be able to monitor my heart rate and write about each shot as I went along. My resting heart rate was 96 beats-per-minute. (I know that’s kind of high, it’s because I have anxiety. I’m like a chihuahua).
I shook each shot up before peeling the lid off, it just seemed like something I should do. I made sure to do the experiment on a full stomach, take sips of water, and had a brookie as a palate cleanser between shots. It’s also worth noting that I had a mild headache before the experiment, probably because I was dehydrated, so I drank a bunch of water right before.
I did the first shot at 2:45 p.m. Here are my unfiltered observations:
Shot #1 (2:45 p.m.): That does not taste like coffee. It tastes sour, stale, like if airport baggage claims had a taste. It smells like soy sauce. This is kind of exciting!
Shot #2 (2:50 p.m.): I have reached my daily limit. I am trying to take small sips of water between shots, because a, uh, friend of mine who had to take an alcohol safety course learned that’s what you’re supposed to do if someone is really drunk. So that feels appropriate here.
Shot #3 (2:55 p.m.): I don’t notice any difference in how I’m feeling yet, except my headache is gone, but that’s probably because of the water I just drank right before this.
Shot #4 (3:00 p.m.): Heart rate check-in: 98 bpm. BARELY any change! The brookie palate cleanser was definitely the move.
Shot #5 (3:05 p.m.): I’ve started throwing back the shots real hard to avoid tasting anything. All those blowjo––voice lessons paid off. And I’m halfway there!
Shot #6 (3:10 p.m.): Over the hump. I feel FINE. Actually, I might be starting to get another headache
Shot #7 (3:15 p.m.): Heart rate check-in: 110 bpm. So it went up.
Shot #8 (3:20 p.m.): I think I’m starting to feel jittery, maybe. I also need to pee.
Shot #9 (3:25 p.m.): One more to go! Now I really need to pee. Unrelated note to myself, call the pharmacy!!!
Shot #10 (3:30 p.m.): Y E E T !
Check-In: 3:45 p.m.: Heart rate: 126 bpm. That’s pretty high. But my heart doesn’t feel like it’s beating much harder than when I’m experiencing slightly above average levels of anxiety. I do really have to pee at this point, and I’m not sure I can responsibly put it off any longer.
Check-In: 4:00 p.m.: I feel strangely calm. A little out of it, but that could also be because I start to lose my grip on reality if I sit in Peirce for over two hours.
After 4:00 p.m. I started getting bored, so that’s the end of my notes. But in the hours after the experiment I felt almost completely normal. Just a little wired. I did pee about every 45 minutes.
Then, around 9:30, I crashed. Hard. I lost function of my limbs, my head hit my pillow, I barely had it in me to brush my teeth before the world went dark. I thought I’d have trouble sleeping, but I think I slept better than I usually do.
It is now 24 hours after the experiment. I feel, in essence, wrecked. This is like the worst hangover of my life. I don’t even feel human. I think I’m getting sick. I think I was already getting sick. I think I’m getting close to death.
Also, the coffee shots made me breakout.
I felt a lot of pressure to deliver some epic story of how SToK sent my soul to nirvana and my body to the hospital, so my results feel sort of anticlimactic. If/when I intentionally overdose on caffeine again, I would up the ante, either by taking 20 shots at once, or taking 10 on an empty stomach. The Thrill editors probably won’t be into that, but I might reach out to Vice.
This experiment didn’t lead to any remarkable discoveries. Oh well. Science be like that sometimes. I may not have learned much from doing 10 coffee shots, but I didn’t die either. And for now, that’s enough.