Energy Drinks Tied to Drug and Alcohol Use in Teens

Alcohol and drug use increased in teens who consumed energy drinks regularly

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Energy drinks are popular beverages among teens, but one new study suggests that teens who make these drinks a daily part of their diet may boost their risk of drug and alcohol use.

Researchers found a significant link between teens who consumed energy drinks daily and their use of alcohol and marijuana.

This research team noted that energy drinks were commonly used to mask the effects of alcohol and suggested a need to educate parents on this matter.

"Speak with a professional about the signs of addiction."

This study was led by Yvonne M. Terry-McElrath, MSA, and colleagues of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

These researchers analyzed data from 21,995 self-reporting surveys from 8th, 10th and 12th graders across the United States.

The analysis revealed that about 30 percent of students consumed energy drinks or shots, 40 percent reported consuming regular soft drinks on a daily basis and 20 percent reported drinking diet soft drinks each day.

The self-reported data showed a significant and positive link between the consumption of energy drinks/shots and the use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and amphetamines within the last 30 days for students in all the grades studied.

The researchers also pointed to a significant and positive link between the daily consumption of regular soft drinks and the use of alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana within the last 30 days for all three grades and the use of amphetamines in 8th and 10th graders.

The researchers analysis also showed a significant and positive relationship between diet soft drinks and smoking cigarettes within the last 30 days for all three grades, alcohol and marijuana use among 8th and 10th graders and amphetamine use in 8th graders.

"The current study indicates that adolescent consumption of energy drinks/shots is widespread and that energy drink users also report heightened risk for substance use," Terry-McElrath and colleagues wrote. They emphasized that their study provided no cause-and-effect data showing that energy drinks led to substance abuse in teens.

The data in the study also showed a higher rate of cigarette and amphetamine use among energy drink users.

The researchers also said that the daily use of regular and diet soft drinks by teens increased the use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and amphetamines, but at lower levels than energy drink consumers.

"Although the adolescent years are an important time for developing personal independence and growth in decision-making abilities, continued support and monitoring by parents is an important step in assisting this process of change within their adolescents in becoming young adults," said Daniel Berarducci, MA, a Clinical Professional Counselor at Person-Holistic Innovations in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"Especially with the need for social interactions, athletic participation, and academic pursuits, it is important for parents to foster continued communication with their teenagers, while also ensuring proper diet and rest is occurring for the health of your teenagers," Berarducci said.

"Teenagers will often feel that they know 'best' in regards to their health (among other things). It is important for parents and other significant adult figures within a teenager’s life to provide guidance during this biological, psychological, and social transition of maturation," he said.

The researcher team noted that energy drinks are often used together with alcohol, which may "mask" the intoxicating effects of alcohol.

These researchers suggested that parents need to be educated on the masking effect of caffeine in energy drinks on alcohol- and substance-related impairment.

This study did not consider the cause of the link between these substances, and more research is needed to expand upon this study’s findings.

This study was published February 4 in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

This study was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

None of the authors had financial disclosures or commercial associations that might pose a conflict of interest.

Review Date: 
February 4, 2014
Last Updated:
February 7, 2014