The Real Bad Thing

Perhaps you remember a time when Coca-Cola was considered the “Real Thing”…when a hot dog was termed a treat…and when illegal drugs were classified as dangerous narcotics that would eat away your brain and sap your emotional and even physical strength, often leaving a person destitute and, at times, dead. Drugs were considered a bad thing — a really bad thing.

But then the anti-drug campaigns of the ’80s gave way to the drug-induced haze of the Clinton years and drug use among teens was no longer shocking. Some misguided parents even viewed it as a rite of passage, and movies and sitcoms began routinely celebrating a habit that can kill.

Now comes news that the manufacturers of a new soft drink have decided to dub their high-energy drink “Cocaine.”

Next, are we going to see brownie mix named “Marijuana Gold”?

The makers of this badly-titled beverage label the drink’s name as “a bit of fun,” according to a report in The Daily Mail. I’m sure that residents of rehab facilities around the world are chuckling about it, even as I compose this.

The manufacturer has the audacity to call the product a “legal alternative” to the better-known form of cocaine. I call the whole episode a particularly sad state of affairs in the business world. The inventor of the drink, an individual named Jamie Kirby, was quoted as saying, “As soon as people look at the can, they smile.”

I find it a little hard to believe that mothers who have lost their children to drug-impaired drivers would smile. Or fathers who’ve seen their sons shot down by neighborhood drug kingpins would find it funny. Or any of the wives and husbands of members of Narcotics Anonymous, who have seen cocaine rob their loved ones of their very souls, would think it harmless.

“Cocaine” boosters are simply try to make a fast buck and, in the process, may be tempting young people to test out “the real thing.” Can we really afford to allow another generation of young people to become sucked into the illegal drug culture? What about the lost productivity in offices, on construction sites, and in other business venues where employees have succumbed to the seduction of cocaine? What about the huge health care bills that can accompany physical and psychological treatment for drug addiction?

David Raynes of the UK National Drug Prevention Alliance had it right when he told the British press, “It is people exploiting drugs. It is a pretty cynical tactic exploiting illegal drugs for their own benefit.”

There was a time when you could walk into a restaurant and, if you were under the age of 12, the man behind the cash register would hand you a candy cigarette for free. Or you could stop by your local convenience store and enjoy a pretzel cigar. Or you could sit in a lounge with your parents and drink a kiddie cocktail or two.

But in the age of gummie bears, those treats are considered to be politically incorrect. Why? Because people have been conditioned to recognize that smoking and drinking in excess can be harmful. Serving pseudo-drinks or fake cigars to youngsters seems irresponsible.

But there’s a difference: cigarettes and alcohol are legal products. Cocaine is not. Not only are the makers of this new beverage running the risk of promoting narcotics use — they’re also giving a wink to breaking the law.

Dr. Charles O’Brien, vice chairman of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying, “It’s just a bad idea and has all the same downsides of too much caffeine plus a very bad name.”

Right now, Cocaine the drink is only available in the New York and Los Angeles areas. The main customers: teenagers.

Parents, be worried. Be very worried.