Despite all of the warnings about energy and performance-enhancing drinks being too much of a bad thing (namely caffeine), it seems our 24-7 culture has conveniently looked past the flashing red lights and a chronic case of the jitters to make these drinks an enduring part of our culture. But just as things seem to be ramping up and up and up, there comes a countermovement to, seemingly, undo and rewire all of those stimulant bombs we have been ingesting, albeit with equally questionable results.
A few dozen Red Bulls ago, there was a spate of “relaxation drinks” like Drank, MiniChill, and Dream Water – all of which purported to provide over-stimulated denizens of the world of ceaseless stimulation a way to buy in, turn off, and drop out. These drinks most commonly relied on natural, or naturally synthesized ingredients like kava root or melatonin (usually in high doses) to produce a sense of relaxation and promote restful sleep. Unlike more traditional herbal teas, these products were marketed nearly as aggressively (as much as you could market a relaxation drink with a bit of force) as their pick-me-up counterparts. But their appeal and their promise haven’t yet caught on as some would hope.
Now, taking a page from the counterculture of the 60s and 70s with a veiled reference the marijuana brownies, are Lazy Cakes. The tag line says, “Relaxation baked in” with an emphasis on baked (a not so subtle reference to the slang term for being high on marijuana). These Lazy Cakes are essentially plastic-wrapped brownies with enough melatonin and valerian root to make you slump in your Lazy Boy for hours on end. To be clear, these brownies (according to the manufacturer) contain no marijuana or marijuana derivatives, and they decidedly don’t get you “high.” Instead they rely heavily on melatonin (3.9 mg of melatonin per serving), which is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain and is a common sleep aid sold in stores. However, according to an NPR report on Lazy Cakes, “Anna Rouse Dulaney, a toxicologist with the Carolinas Poison Center, says that “eating the whole brownie would be about twice the recommended dose.” She believes it’s only a matter of time before calls start coming in about Lazy Cakes.”
Well no one has wound up in the emergency room yet, most likely because they are slumped over their TV remote and not suffering from heart palpitations from drinking stimulant garbage like Four Loko. Still the mere existence of products like Lazy Cakes, which promise to unwind those who are far too tightly wound to find relaxation naturally, is a signifier that something is critically off-balance with our culture. We have entered a cycle of dependency (not unlike that of a substance abuser) that requires us to rely upon marketers and high-dosages of stimulants and depressants to maintain some sort of elusive equilibrium. Is this really necessary? Have we drifted too far from our own ability to self-regulate, or is it fair and reasonable to look to packaged mood-enhancers to maintain balance? Do you think these products hold unseen dangers?