drug use

Energy Drink Consumption May Lead to Drug Use Later

Regular consumption of energy drinks among adolescents and young adults may be associated with cocaine use at age 25 years, nonmedical use of prescription stimulants, and higher risk for alcohol use disorder, according to a recent study.

Energy drinks contain a large amount of caffeine and are popular among adolescents and young adults. However, little is known about long-term use, especially in relation to other substance use.

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To explore this relationship further, the researchers evaluated energy drink consumption and substance use among 1099 participants aged 21 to 25 years who were originally recruited as first-year college students at age 18 years.

Trajectory groups were created based on the probability of past-year use from ages 21 to 24 years, the researchers said. They also assessed differences in substance use outcomes by age 25 years, holding constant demographics, sensation seeking, other caffeine consumption, and substance use at age 21 years.

Results indicated that energy drink consumption declined in annual prevalence and frequency of use among participants aged 21 to 25 years. However, more participants had a persistent trajectory of consumption (51.4%) than those with non-use (20.6%), intermediate (17.4%), or desisting (10.6%) trajectories.

The researchers also found that cocaine use at age 25 years, nonmedical use of prescription stimulants, and the risk for alcohol use disorder were significantly associated with trajectory group membership. Participants in the persistent and intermediate trajectory groups had the highest risk for these outcomes, even after adjusting for prior substance use and other risk factors. However, neither marijuana nor tobacco use were associated with trajectory group membership.

“The typical pattern of [energy drink] consumption among this sample was sustained use throughout young adulthood,” the researchers concluded.

“Such individuals appear to be at high risk for adverse substance use outcomes, and results suggest possible specificity regarding cocaine use, [nonmedical use of prescription stimulants], and [alcohol use disorder] risk. More research is needed to understand the mechanisms underlying the connection between [energy drink] and substance use.”

—Christina Vogt


Arria AM, Caldeira KM, Bugbee BA, Vincent KB, O’Grady KE. Trajectories of energy drink consumption and subsequent drug use during young adulthood [Published online August 7, 2017]. Drug Alcohol Dependence. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.06.008.