Caffeine, the friend of business people and students everywhere, is found naturally in coffee beans, guarana fruit, green tea leaves and more. But these natural caffeine sources don’t seem to be enough to keep us lethargic Americans going. Today, the drug caffeine is mixed into everything from syrupy energy drinks to beef jerky and, since 2004, Americans have been getting buzzed off a wave of “energy shots.” Led by the top-selling 5-Hour Energy, little bottles of vitality booster have flooded convenience store counters across the country. In an interview for CNN, Carl Spencer, spokesperson for 5-hour Energy, said, “It would be easier for me to tell you where we didn’t sell it in the U.S. than list all the places we do.”
5-hour Energy targets the over-worked and unmotivated, infamously advertising to consumers there is “no crash” after drinking the elixir. The caloric content and vitamins in 5-hour Energy mean it can be classified as a dietary supplement, escaping FDA regulation. In the company’s most recent television campaign, the slogan has been modified to encourage use, “every day.”
I can understand the desire to take a shot of this chemical cocktail; say, for instance, you are at work and can’t be sipping a latte during your shift. Or maybe you just don’t have the time to brew a pot of java in the morning. Maybe, like me, you were handed a free sample on campus and were curious to feel its effect. I don’t understand how the 5-Hour Energy sales force is allowed to suggest that taking their potion every day will promote a healthy lifestyle. The human body will develop a tolerance to a drug used every day, meaning more becomes necessary to consume for the desired effect. This means that you’ll be dependent on the stuff or something similar just to operate normally. What I believe 5-hour Energy is really selling in these ads is the idea that it’s okay to be addicted to their drink. The student who buys a bulk package and slams one of the shots every day isn’t doing anything wrong, he’s simply doing what the commercials purport is normal. Don’t tell me this bro is supposed to think for himself.
My problem isn’t with caffeine (I love the stuff), but with the way 5-hour Energy and other energy shots deliver “energy” via caffeine and other drugs into the system. Coffee and tea are naturally-caffeinated beverages that humans have enjoyed for hundreds of years. Energy shots have been around for less than a decade. Coffee and tea are the direct byproducts of plants, not created by scientists from artificial ingredients. Most importantly, coffee and tea are social devices that bring people together and inspire conversation. Energy shots are knocked back with a cringe and finished in less than a minute; you’ll never see people getting together to drink energy shots. I suggest that the next time you’re feeling like an energy boost, drink a cup of tea or coffee (or water!), do some exercise or take a guilt-free power nap. In a pinch, you might try an energy shot, but please don’t listen to the ads. Hard-working people all over the globe get it done without an energy shot every day, and so can you.