Uppers and Downers

Post by Maxime Rousseau

It's been a while since I've posted here. In between school, shitty homework and working 30 hours a week, the little but of time that I used to devote to updating my blogs is now down to very little to none. It seems that it's when there's the most stuff going on around you that's post worthy that you can never find time to post. Anyways...

Energy drinks. It's the new thing, everybody's doing it. Caffeine has been transformed in the minds of the general public from a jitter-inducing chemical in coffee and tea to a full fledged drug popular amongst the younger people. Everybody under 30 has consumed an energy drink at least once, and according to what I'm reading, it seems that a lot of people depend on these beverages to keep their busy lives going.  Schools have started banning the stuff because it supposedly makes children a tad too excited. Give it a couple of years (months?), and it's sur to become the next big social issue, right up there with the legalization of pot.

Like every youngster out there, I have been consuming energy drinks for quite a while. I got introduced to the stuff by a couple of cadet buddies who took it at biathlon competitions hoping it would improve their ski times, being handed over whatever was left in the piles over piles of cans of monsters that they brought with them and didn't want to bring back home. I liked the taste, but I didn't find the experience particularly enlightening, and I sure as hell didn't grow wings. Eventually, once I started working some night shifts at McDonalds, I started buying my own energy drinks, and started experimenting with different brands and formats. At first it was the tried and true Redbulls and Rockstars, then Hype (which remains my favorite up to now), and by the summer of  '08, I've had my fair share of those drinks, yet rarely took them out of work.

But last year, I started taking more and more of the damned beverages. By winter 07-08 and up to October '08 , I was consuming caffeine on what some of my friends called an "alarmingly regular basis" : at least 4 times a week, and on occasions two times a day, when I really needed a kick. Being a caffeine sensitive person, I didn't get much of an instantaneous boost out of drinking that stuff, however I would feel incredible tired if I spent a couple of days without drinking one. Buying 4 and 6-packs to save some money wasn't a waste anymore, because  normally those wouldn't even last a week. Between classes, at lunch, I would drink them whenever I felt slightly snoozy. Since then, I have stopped drinking energy drinks so much, but I still take on on occasions.

The expansion of the market for these beverages in the last years has been enormous, new drinks, flavors, brands and variants popping up everywhere on a daily basis. But with every trend comes the anti-trend: think baggy pants vs girl jeans on guys. Now that the energy drink market is going strong, a company is starting to market it's total anti-thesis: a relaxation drink.

Called Drank, which is a pretty obviously a nod of the head at DJ Screw's and later Lil Wayne's infamous codeine syrup based Purple Drank, the drink promises to put you in a state of relaxation they qualify as "extreme". The beverage is said to be entirely natural and made out of Melatonin, Valerian Root and Rose Hip extracts, although I'm not sure how extracts of a substance which the body secretes naturally and that fucks up your body's internal clock qualifies as natural. Oh, and it's purple and it tastes like grapes.

While the concept of the drink is nothing extraordinary and perfectly acceptable, because it basically is just an over the counter, self administered mild sedative that can work wonders for busy people who ride planes all over the place all the time and need a cure for jet lag. However, the existence of this product in tandem with energy drinks just feels weird. The way I see this, some people somewhere in the States were having too much energy drinks, and one day decided to take action and invent something that would get them off their Redbull high, and BING, Drank! Are we just substituting an energy for a relaxation one? Or are we just making manipulating one's energy easier, one slim can at a time?

I can really see people abusing from this kind of availability of both stimulants AND sedatives. Take this guy for example. If you can read French, please do read the article, it's pretty hilarious. To sum it up for those of you who only speak/read English, basically the guy did 80 hours weeks all the time, all while smoking a lot, drinking up to 8 c0ffees per day, eating crap all the time,  and downing a couple of energy drinks to wash it down. After a year of doing all of this, the dude dropped (almost) dead and had a cardiac arrest, at the sweet age of 32. Unfortunately, modern medicine was able to trick natural selection into letting this sucker live, and he is now on a crusade to end the reign of energy drinks over young people. He goes as far as to say that these drinks "kill people" and swears that he will never drink another super-caffeinated beverage again.

This guy obviously didn't need Drank to comfort him into drinking liters on liters of Monster, but how many people do you think will get caught in the trap where they'll think they can down as much energy drinks as they want because Drank can help them get the sleep they need? What if all these people wake up one day with whatever part of their brains that secretes melatonin totally under-worked from drinking all that Drank, and can't fall asleep without anymore? After all, isn't it proven that sleeping pills are extremely habit-forming?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not of those who oppose such drinks, but I just find it wierd that people have to rely on those products. We are but recreating less potent versions of cocaine (and other stimulant drugs) and opiates, how long will it be until people develop a resistance and want stronger  stuff over the counter? After tiny Hype shots, how long before people starting free-basing caffeine?