Red Bull gives you wings. Monster unleashes the beast. Relentless makes you....relentless. Everyone is well aware that energy drink manufacturers like to talk the talk. But, despite all the bravado, one thing you’re unlikely to hear from producers of caffeinated rocket fuel is how you might end up with an irrepressible and incredibly painful erection. Strangely, no one thought that that would make for a compelling sales pitch.
Unfortunately for one particular brand of African energy drink, this embarrassing and somewhat awkward side effect has caused a major catastrophe for several alarmed customers. According to a report in BBC news, Zambian authorities have issued an immediate ban on the sale of “Power Natural High Energy Drink SX”, after a Ugandan man complained about suffering an unwanted six-hour boner.
Subsequent tests have revealed that the drink, made by food processing company Revin Zambia, actually includes the chemical sildenafil citrate as a key ingredient. For anyone unfamiliar with chemistry or erectile dysfunction, sildenafil citrate is the technical term for world famous medication “Viagra”.
Reports indicate that the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority actually warned citizens against purchasing the drink as early as January, when the use of Viagra as an active ingredient was first uncovered. However, rather than dissuade the public from buying the beverage, this news actually helped increase the energy drink’s popularity, and saw Power Natural High Energy Drink SX on sale everywhere from supermarkets to street vendors.
Further analysis of the drink conducted by labs in Zimbabwe and South Africa revealed just how potent the energy drink actually is. According to the data, just 250 millilitres of Power Natural High Energy Drink SX contains between 68.5 and 71.3 milligrams (mg) of the drug - a serious quantity, considering that most doctors recommend men start on a 50mg dose. Although the drink’s packaging clearly states that it “increases libido”, there is no mention of any drugs - erection inducing or otherwise.
Funny though the thought of being totally wired with an inexplicable boner might be, IFL science emphasise that prolonged erections are “no laughing matter”. As they state, “Health authorities recommend that men go to the emergency room if they’ve had an erection for more than four hours...because blood can fill the penis and become “trapped” in the tissue. The oxygen-poor blood can then begin to damage tissues in the penis.” This is obviously not ideal for anyone who just wanted to wake up before their shift in the office.
Following the ban, Zambian authorities have been quick to make clear their support for the move. However, it’s also clear that there are red faces all round amongst the medical community. Speaking to the BBC, Jerome Kanyika, head of The Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia said the ban was "a welcome move but also an embarrassment to us as a country because we had to rely on investigations by other countries". If this story proves anything, it is that, as embarrassments go, it could have been a lot worse.