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Sean Prichard, the national expert on Mountain Dew’s don’ts.
The way Sean Prichard tells his story, his early life makes for a great moral fable—best recited by “Just say no”-era Nancy Reagan. All the way through high school, you see, Prichard was a font of potential. Solid head on his shoulders. Football player. Aspirations to go into psychology. “A health nut,” the Florida native says.
Then college happened. Not that Prichard fell in with the standard bad crowd of hippies, dope fiends, and Walter Mondale supporters. That would make his story too simple. In fact, he was the only one of his friends to run amok. The downward spiral started innocently enough during his freshman year, not long after he’d arrived on campus: “I had a test the next day, and I hadn’t studied,” he recalls. “I needed to stay up all night.”
Which he did. And then, once the sun rose, he found he needed to stay up some more. You don’t need to have watched the Alex-pops-diet-pills episode of Family Ties to know what happened next. What’s the point of cramming if you can’t bring that extra edge to the exam? Prichard’s life, he says, devolved into a circular tragicomedy of wild sleeplessness. Up at night. Up in the morning. Up all day.
Just looking back on those years, Prichard says, inflames his ire. “It’s a doggone cycle,” he bites.
At his worst, Prichard was an off-the-charts fanatic. “I haven’t met anyone more fanatical than me—at least not more fanatical than me in my heyday,” he says. “I was drinking eight to 12 Mountain Dews a day!”
Scan the suit-wearing commuters exiting Farragut North during morning rush hour and you probably expect lots of neatly covered up secret histories. Aw, sure, there are alcoholics, dirty-movie watchers, a few former junkies. But Mountain Dew addiction? Now there’s a youthful indiscretion worth burying.
Prichard, however, is sharing his sugar-sweetened, caffeine-fueled postadolescent self with the world. And the 25-year-old is doing it from his grown-up job as a tie-wearing Web-page coordinator for the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP) in Washington. “A caffeine buzz is quite euphoric,” he intones. “I mean, I’ve never done any other drugs. I’ve never done cocaine. But from what I’ve heard about cocaine, I think the [Dew] buzz is similar.”
But don’t just listen to Prichard. Read all about it at his Web site, which has vaulted the District resident from soda-swilling collegiate insomniac to Wall Street Journal-quoted expert on what’s doing with “the Dew.”
Prichard’s efforts to swear off the greenish-yellow liquid resulted only in weeks of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms—headaches, sleepless nights. By his junior year in college, his Mountain Dew habit was such that the soda itself wasn’t enough to satisfy his appetite. Mountain Dew Anonymous—”Dedicated to Increasing Your Daily Consumption of Mountain Dew”—is Prichard’s sonnet to Dewaholism. The Web site, replete with a picture of Scooby “Dew” and the gang, is centered around Prichard’s—aka Dr. Dew—12 hyper-linked steps to improve your life through Dew consumption.
The site also includes links to like-minded Web locales—the Mountain Dew Liberation Army page is one of Prichard’s faves—information about caffeine, and a message board where fanatics can share their enthusiasms. One Dewaholic pilot recently wrote in, complaining that the side effects of his addiction cause him to “overcorrect” when executing in-flight maneuvers.
Prichard—who with or without syrup-flavored chemical assistance looks as if he’s logged more than a few all-nighters with his Web browser—claims to have designed better than 100 Web pages. But Dew Anonymous is by far Prichard’s most successful venture. He says that the site’s garnered better than 70,000 hits in its three-year existence. In early October, it was responsible for getting its creator his first crack at the national media.
Apparently, there’s a teen rumor that holds that drinking large quantities of Mountain Dew can lower a male’s sperm count. The Wall Street Journal story chronicling the phenomenon included a testimonial from a D.C.-area high school student who claimed that one of her classmates had made her boyfriend drink a pre-coital six-pack of Dew in lieu of conventional birth control.
According to Prichard, the Journal reporter who called ARHP looking for a health professional quote got a Dewologist in the bargain. And, like a good voice of authority, Prichard swiftly dismissed the Dew-oriented folk wisdom. “People have been writing in to the site about that rumor since it started,” Prichard says between sips of you-know-what. “I didn’t realize it was so serious until it broke in the Journal. Now it turns out that kids are actually getting pregnant because they’re believing the rumor.” Dew Anonymous now includes a note referring to the rumor—which, for the record, is silly and wrong. Stick to condoms.
Today, Prichard shows signs of having reclaimed the promise of his teenage years. He arrives early for our meeting in a tie, pressed shirt, and running sneakers. His reddish hair’s just so. He explains that he’s just come from a desktop publishing class. Tomorrow, he’ll travel to New York to catch Phantom of the Opera.
“I’ve been wanting to see it for years,” he says.
He even demonstrates poise in front of a news photographer—at least until he’s told to take a drink from his Dew-bottle prop. With the quick tip of the head, the liquid’s better than half-gone.
What if we’d substituted Mello Yello?
Too sweet, says Prichard.
“Just plain gross,” he says.
But Prichard claims that he’s now a responsible user. Granted, if you go to his house for dinner, he may serve you a salad with a Dew-based vinaigrette—someone sent the recipe into his site—followed by a Cornish game hen covered in a Dew-glaze—he made that one up himself. But as far as drinking goes, the former abuser sticks to one can a day. “I got a job,” he says. “I need my sleep.” CP