While energy drinks like Red Bull have become popular, new “anti” energy drinks have hit the market and offer the opposite effect. Rather than pepping up the user, the drink promises extreme relaxation. Being sold under brand names like Drank anti-energy, Unwind, or Mary Jane’s Relaxation Soda, the drink offers effects similar to a homemade drug mixture known as Lean or Purple Drank which contains codeine-laced cough syrup. The new anti-energy drinks are being marketed as “extreme relaxation beverages.”
What are Anti-Energy Drinks and Relaxation Beverages?
Anti-energy drinks and relaxation beverages are beverages that are designed to induce relaxation and sedation. Unlike their street counterparts, the commercial versions, such as the drank relaxation beverage, do not contain codeine; rather, they contain natural ingredients like melatonin, valerian, and kava kava. Since many of the natural ingredients used in anti-energy drinks are not FDA-approved food additives, the drinks are sold as dietary supplements.
Although they are very much opposites, anti-energy drinks are similar to energy drinks, only in that users drink them to achieve a certain effect. Any beverage or product that is used to achieve a physical state such as relaxation, energy, or intoxication has the potential to be abused.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone that the body makes. Its primary function is to help regulate sleep-wake cycles.1 Melatonin supplements are easy to find and purchase at drugstores, grocery stores, and other convenience stores and they usually come in pill or lozenge form. Users typically take them 30 to 60 minutes before they want to go to bed, and the supplement helps them feel relaxed, calm, and sleepy, which makes it easier to snooze.
Is Melatonin Addictive?
Although melatonin is naturally-occurring in the body, the supplements are not completely risk-free. Since you can’t build up a tolerance to melatonin and it doesn’t cause withdrawal symptoms or physical dependence, it is most likely not addictive. However, there is not enough research available on the long-term effects of melatonin to definitively say that it is not addictive.2
How Long Does Melatonin Stay in Your System?
The duration of time that supplements and drugs stay in your system will vary, depending on several different factors. Typically, melatonin stays in your system for about 12 hours, but this will vary depending on how long you’ve been taking it.3
What is Kava?
Kava (also referred to as kava kava) is a plant that is native to the South Pacific islands. Traditionally, Pacific Islanders make a kava drink that they use in ceremonies or social gatherings to promote relaxation. When consumed, kava affects the neurotransmitters in the brain and reduces feelings of anxiety.
Today, kava is a popular alternative to many sleep medications like Lunesta or Sonata and it is touted as a safer, non-addictive option. However, certain side effects of the supplement are concerning. For example, the use of kava, or products containing kava, has been associated with liver damage. Additionally, some companies may opt to use certain parts of the plant for product manufacturing that are unsafe for consumption.4
Is Kava Addictive?
Although kava kava addiction has not been proven, the substance may have addictive qualities. Medical professionals are unsure what dosage is safe and many recommend not taking it for more than three months and avoiding alcohol while taking it.5
How Long Does Kava Kava Stay in Your System?
How long kava stays in your system will vary depending on the variety of kava that is used, your metabolism, and the dosage. Reports say the effects of kava may last anywhere from a few hours to several days.6
What is Valerian?
Valerian (or valerian root) is a type of plant that has been used to treat insomnia for hundreds of years. In small doses, it is perfectly safe. However, if it is taken in large doses, it can cause harmful side effects like dizziness, delirium, and apathy. Some people have also reported experiencing withdrawal symptoms after discontinuing long-term use of valerian.7
Is Valerian Addictive?
Since valerian produces a sedating effect and can cause withdrawal symptoms, it may be addictive.8 As a result, it should never be used with alcohol or other sedating drugs like Xanax, Valium, or Ativan.
How Long Does Valerian Stay in Your System?
The duration of time valerian stays in your system will depend on your metabolism, the dosage, and other contributing factors.
Side Effects of Anti-Energy Drinks
If you use anti-energy drinks, you’re most likely looking for a way to relax, calm down, and reduce feelings of anxiety. Although anti-energy drinks and relaxation beverages may provide these effects, they can also have several other unhealthy and dangerous side effects.
Users of anti-energy drinks report feeling effects similar to alcohol intoxication or to ingesting cold medication or cough syrup. These products contain sedating ingredients like melatonin, valerian root extract, and kava kava. Consuming more than the recommended amount of the anti-energy drinks can lead to inebriation and loss of function.
Other negative side effects of anti-energy drinks include:
Little is known about the long-term effects of the use of anti-energy drinks.
Health Concerns Regarding Anti-Energy Drinks and Relaxation Beverages
The labels on anti-energy drinks warn that use of the product may cause drowsiness and advises against driving or operating heavy machinery. They also warn against consuming more than two servings in a 24-hour period, which leads to concerns that the drinks could be abused in much the same way that Lean and cough syrup concoctions are abused.
While being touted as a safe and legal alternative to drugs, experts fear that regular consumption of anti-energy drinks will act as a gateway to increased intoxication and further drug use.
Anti-energy drinks are available at convenience stores and are currently legal. However, they should be consumed with caution and with an understanding that little is known about their overall effects. Willingly consuming a drink with sedative properties in order to reach an intoxicated state is risky and can compromise your judgment and health.
Anti-Energy Drink Addiction Treatment
Just as energy drink addictions are a real risk for people who overindulge in energy drinks regularly, the risk of developing anti-energy drink addictions should also be taken seriously. Even though these beverages contain “natural” and plant-based ingredients, they should be consumed with extreme caution.
If you or a loved one is struggling with polydrug abuse that involves the over-consumption of anti-energy drinks, professional addiction treatment and behavioral therapy can help you restore balance to your life and overcome your addiction(s).