Two teenagers in a single county in Tennessee have died and—while the autopsy results are not yet in—their deaths may have been caused by drinking a combination of racing fuel and Mountain Dew.
Naturally, it's time for everybody to panic!
Racing fuel, used for drag racing, can be easily purchased online and at some convenience stores.
"A lot of people refer to it as 'moonshine on steroids.' A lot of people call it 'Dewshine,'" Greenbrier Police Chief K.D. Smith told NBC News of the Mountain Dew and racing fuel mixture.
Fox News is covering the story of "two teenage friends are dead after drinking a lethal concoction of racing fuel and Mt. Dew" as part of the national cable news rotation.
The clickbait site Heavy hustled out "Dewshine: Five Fast Facts You Need to Know" to tell readers what they need to know about "this deadly drink."
Drinkers have long made the connection between ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, (which gets you drunk) and methanol (which powers automobiles and can kill you), though it is typically bootleggers who wind up adulterating moonshine with the substance.
In 2012, there were a spate of deaths in the Czech that were attributed to methanol consumption, as well as deaths from India to Cambodia in recent years. During Prohibition, many Americans died looking for substitutes to banned alcoholic beverages elsewhere in the same chemical family—or through concerted federal efforts to taint forbidden beverages. The initial effects of methanol are similar to ethanol, but too much methanol quickly results in seizures, blindness, and death.
The fact that methanol poisoning is nothing new and also that there is no evidence that this particular combination is popular or in widespread use hasn't stopped the scare story cycle, and it likely won't stop politicians and regulators looking to score points with new safety measures if the story has some staying power.
PepsiCo already took some flack last year for releasing a pseudo-artisanal non-alcoholic beverage of the same name in longneck bottles. At the very least, expect this perfectly safe form of Dewshine to come up in the discussion as law enforcement and politicians scramble to "do something." (Or is that "dew something?")
The family of one of the dead teens, 16-year-old Logan Stephenson, is talking about an awareness campaign with their son's school, which is actually a rather sensible response in this particular county where the problem appears to be completely contained.
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."
Some local law enforcement is also being very reasonable, with the Robertson County Sheriff's office releasing a statement saying:
The investigation continues into factors surrounding the deaths of these two boys, and the sheriff's office is awaiting toxicology results. There are many rumors floating around social media websites by members of the community. The sheriff's office asks that everyone please refrain from posting or spreading these rumors.
Good advice for journalists as well.
For another one of Reason's greatest drug panic hits, don't forget "beezin" where kids rub mentholated lip balm on their eyelids.