Whoa up. Did you see the piece in today's Chronicle about anti-energy drinks? Come on, folks. Anti-energy?
It appears that this new trend takes its inspiration from the club crowd, high on Red Bull and other energy producing drinks and powders but wanting to come down. Rappers go on about their favorite beverage for this purpose: “sipping syrup”, which means, I gather, codeine cough syrup mixed with alcohol. Over the past 8 years three of them have died from the effects of such elixirs.
That is so totally cool in some quarters that companies have begun to market a carbonated version, substituting valerian root and melatonin for the codeine. Any member of the sleep-challenged menopausal brigade probably recognizes the names of those two natural and legal downers. They’re used by many people to induce sleep.
Although their effects when combined with alcohol—already a central nervous system depressant—have not been studied, those ingredients themselves aren’t really of particular concern. What rocks my boat is the fact that you’ve got a society, here, of people stimulating themselves from the moment they wake with uppers—legal ones like caffeine—then searching desperately to calm themselves at the end of the day with downers. To some degree, of course, it’s the way of Western Civilization--in Britain, all that tea and pubs; in France, morning coffee so stout you can walk upon it, followed by wine the rest of the day (although that process seems to be changing in recent months). Other cultures, too, seek enhancements on both ends of the energy spectrum. It may be a broad human need.
What’s different to me is the intensification. The new energy drinks offer huge amounts of caffeine, and people drink them into the night, to keep that “energy” going. They do this with a fine disregard for the poor old human nervous and circulatory system. We have limits and we don’t necessarily know what they are, physiologically, until we’ve passed them and bad things result. Panic and anxiety attacks are the least of it.
Most of us have approached the edge of our limits with the common caffeine shakes, just from a “normal” intake of coffee during work hours. Caffeine shakes are a warning, y’all.
I don’t know the physiology behind it, but I think of the process as a swing, arcing back and forth from a rope tied to a tree limb. The higher it’s pushed on each end, the more friction the rope sustains from the rough bark. Eventually, the rope breaks. A less extreme arc, and the rope will last much longer.
Given the discomfort of too much caffeine, though—shakes and quivering at 3 AM cannot be pleasant—it’s no surprise that people high on the energy drinks or whatever would want something to bring them down, smooth them out, let them sleep, but why don’t we call the whole progression by its proper name?
Because what it is,...is drug abuse.