Energy drinks linked to increased risk of substance abuse in young adults

By: Mohan Garikiparithi | Food Facts | Wednesday, August 09, 2017 - 06:00 AM

energy drinksWe all want to feel more energetic, though our energy levels are something that always seems to be in short supply. While some of us choose to drink the traditional cup of coffee for a quick boost, a lot of people are leaning towards energy drinks that promise hours of energy.

According to a new study, young adults—who happen to drink the most energy drinks—were at an increased risk of developing a future substance abuse problem if they drank the drinks on a regular basis.

Younger population and energy drinks

The researchers noticed that over a five-year period, young adults who regularly consumed energy drinks with high caffeine content were significantly more likely to use cocaine, non-medically use prescription stimulants, and be at risk for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

“The results suggest that energy drink users might be at heightened risk for other substance use, particularly stimulants. Because of the longitudinal design of this study, and the fact that we were able to take into account other factors that would be related to risk for substance use, this study provides evidence of a specific contribution of energy drink consumption to subsequent substance use,” said Dr. Arria, associate professor of behavioral and community health and Center on Young Adult Health and Development (CYAHD) director.

Overall, the researchers stress that energy drinks in high consumption are related to high-risk behaviors. This might lead energy drink users to be at a heightened risk for using other stimulants, such as illegal drugs.

Energy drinks increase risky behavior

The study in question found that more than half of the 1,099 participants fell into a group that sustained their energy drink consumption over time. These subjects were significantly more likely to be using stimulant drugs.

Those who were found to only modestly drink energy drinks were found to have an increased risk of using stimulate drugs. Non-drinkers or use declining over time were not at a higher risk for any substance use with the measures tested.

While the researchers acknowledge that there may be some biological mechanisms in place that could explain the observed outcomes, this remains unclear.

More research is suggested, but considering the already documented health risk that energy drinks impose on the younger population—such as negative impacts on cardiovascular function—regulation of these beverages should be regulated by the FDA.

“Future studies should focus on younger people because we know that they are regularly consuming energy drinks. We want to know whether or not adolescents are similarly at risk for future substance use,” Dr. Arria suggests.

Related: Common drink puts your heart at risk

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