A new study found that adolescents and young adults that frequently consume energy drinks are at a higher risk for abusing alcohol, illicit drugs, and misusing prescription drugs. The study followed college students for 3 years and monitored their energy drink usage. By the end of the study, all participants were questioned about their substance use within the last year.
The groups that consistently consumed energy drinks or increased their intake also frequently used cocaine, prescription stimulants, and alcohol. The groups that decreased or stopped their energy drink consumption altogether had a much lower rate of substance abuse.
What do energy drinks and substance abuse have in common? They are all addictive and easy to build up a tolerance to.
Caffeine is a drug that millions of Americans consume every day through tea, coffee, soda, or other means. However, it doesn’t actually give the body energy. The receptors in the brain that feel fatigue are blocked by the chemicals in caffeine. Because it’s so easy to build a tolerance to, people who feel they need more energy often turn to harder substances. Highly addictive prescription stimulants like Adderall of Ritalin are usually the next step, especially among teens and college students.
People who have already misused these drugs are more likely to engage in other risk taking behavior, like binge drinking or doing illicit drugs. Participants in the study reported cocaine, another stimulant, as their drug of choice. It gives the user a rush similar to when they drink an energy drink, but amplified by 1000.
Although energy drinks are technically safe for consumption, many people now believe that the FDA should either limit the amount of caffeine in every drink, or issue a warning that it has the potential to lead to addiction.
While the FDA has no official comment, it is important to remember that too much of anything can be bad for you. Use your best judgement and always drink in moderation.