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Relaxation Drinks – cause for anxiety? (7/29/11)

July 29, 2011

Immediate and Ultimate Relaxation?

Any idea what’s in that can you’re drinking?

In a wired up nation worried about multiple wars, fiscal collapse, disappearing jobs, hurricanes and floods, global climate change and the Casey Anthony trial results, it’s no surprise that people want to relax.  Into that “perceived need” have jumped “relaxation drinks,” presently numbering 350 varieties, promising calm, soothing rest with a sip.  Yet we don’t know whether they really make people relax or what they contain.

And according to useful detective work by Prevention Magazine (August 2011, p. 33), even the manufacturers may not know what’s inside.

Welcome to another American invention – the world of non-drug drugs.

The Inside Dope

Prevention tested a few of the increasing popular relaxation beverages:

Dream Water® had no 5-HTP inside, though it was listed on the label.  The amount of GABA was considered far too small to have any therapeutic effect.

RelaxZen™ – none of the declared valerian was found, though valerian is one of the most popular “relaxation” ingredients.

Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda promises you’ll “Enjoy euphoric relaxation that’s all natural, plain and simple.”

So does the “Mary Jane” experience evoke that of marijuana, the presumed basis of the soda’s name?  Only if you believe that kava is a euphoric relaxagen, which many would dispute – before they worry about what it does to the liver.

And the “ultimate relaxation” promised by Unwind™?  It presumably comes from the 1.5 mg of melatonin inside, half of the 3mg listed.

  Melatonin is of particular interest because ( 1. It is a hormone 2. It is a sedating drug 3. It changes biological clocks – which pretty much changes everything your body does 4. Its effects vary widely with the time of day – moving in both directions with a highly varying dose response curve. 5. It’s used in many other relaxing formulations, like “Lazy Cakes,” melatonin brownies that have been linked to children not waking up (

An Upper and A Downer

Relaxation drinks don’t contain what they claim to contain.  And they are often groups of different drugs which occasionally have been individually studied but not as  drug combinations – which means we don’t know what their effects are.

And how are they marketed?  Often as “downers” to counteract  “energy beverage” uppers.

The problem  – many of these drinks are sold as “herbal supplements” – only for adult use.

         Yet they’re marketed to kids and teens.

Go over to “” and you will see a can with an emblazoned red bull and the caption “How do you stop a bull?”

Click on the screen and an advertisement for Unwind™ shows up.  So if you’re too charged up from your energy drink, you come down with Unwind™ and its sleep inducing melatonin.

And what if the “unwinding” kid’s driving?  What if the sleep is quick and sudden in kids veering from multiple energy drinks to “relaxation” drinks at 2 in the morning?

In a previous generation, people would go “up” with cocaine and “down” with alcohol.  Today’s teens have the “safe” alternative of energy drinks followed by relaxation drinks.

Teenagers biologically will fall asleep late and get up late; they need about 9-9.5 hours sleep to learn, remember, and think.

The energy drinks then keep them up later, the caffeine and other stimulants staying in their system throughout the night – when they wake up to text their friends.  Their sleep time gets shorter and shorter, yet another reason we have a child and adolescent obesity epidemic – and kids who can’t learn in school. Soon they need more energy beverages to stay awake.

But they can then be “knocked” into sleep by relaxation beverages, which allow them to get “up” again with more energy beverages.  As Michael Grandner’s national health data from the University of Pennsylvania shows, the more caffeine people take, the more tired and sleepy they feel.

Many years ago marijuana was attacked as the “gateway” to harder drugs.  So today we sell “Mary Jane” and her relaxing soda to kids jumped up on energy beverages.

Perfectly legal, of course.

The Ultimate Regulatory Nightmare

Do we really want people to reach for drugs just to relax?  There are thousands of ways to “chill” and relax without drugs – and every culture has developed its own.  Most techniques, like sports, meditation, conversations with friends, walks in the park, yoga and paradoxical relaxation, are also healthy in their own right.  Active rest can be fun, calm you down quickly, and give you the shot at a long and healthy life.

That doesn’t mean there’s no place for relaxation drinks –if we know what’s in them and what they actually do.

Doctors joke during medical training that the worst nightmare for the FDA would be a drug that causes euphoria, is cheap, and produces no bad side effects.

Sadly, the human body’s evolutionary creation leaves it with many physiologic blind alleys and extraordinary interactions.  That’s why the human genome project looking for the “coronary artery disease” or “schizophrenia” gene ended up with hundreds and hundreds of candidates that might do little – or nothing.  That’s why virtually every drug and therapeutic procedure gives you something you really do not want – as Big Pharma’s failure to produce many effective new drugs in the last three decades can attest (believe me, they tried – sweat, blood, and hundreds of billions of dollars worth.)

The human body is an extraordinarily complex information processing unit – one that deserves ultimate respect.

The Relaxation Manifesto

If they are to be marketed as anything except nice tasting placebos, relaxation drink manufacturers should do what most medical products should:

         1. List what’s inside them

         2. Prove they contain what they list

         3. Be tested, as in clinical drug trials, to see if they relax and calm people as they claim.

         4. Stop marketing to kids.

Just imagine how much money could be made with a bunch of herbs that led to calm and mellowness, possessed no nasty side effects, and tasted good.

The onus is on the industry to do this work and prove the efficacy of their products.   Let them sign on to the above manifesto. Let’s see who has the truly superior product.

There are 350 competitors to vanquish – and more every week, in a market that’s already a half billion dollars in the US alone.

Capitalism works through competition, right?
Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

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