Energy drinks: helpful or harmful? Resistance trainees looking for a pre-workout boost often rely on caffeinated energy drinks to increase performance. According to one new study from the University of Maryland, consumption of energy drinks could lead to drug use in the future.
The University of Maryland, working with the Center on Young Adult Health and Development (CYAHD), analyzed data from a study that followed young adults from the ages of 21 to 25.
College students were enrolled in the study, and the observation continued even after they left college. The researchers analyzed energy beverage consumption, consumption of caffeine from other sources, substance use at the age of 21, the participants’ sensation-seeking habits, and their substance use outcomes at the age of 25.
Over the course of the five-year study, energy drink consumption overall decreased—from 62.5% to 49.1%, and from 35.2 days per year down to just 26.3. However, the students that continued to maintain a higher level of consumption outnumbered the students that decreased. 51.4% of students maintained “persistent trajectory,” 20.6% stopped consuming energy drinks completely, 10.6% desisted in their use, and 17.4% had “intermediate” energy drink consumption.
Among the Persistent and Intermediate groups, cocaine use, alcohol use disorder, and nonmedical use of prescription stimulants were visibly higher at the age of 25. Marijuana and tobacco weren’t associated with the use of energy drinks.
Sustaining high levels of energy drink consumption can lead to a higher risk of substance abuse.
“The results suggest that energy drink users might be at heightened risk for other substance use, particularly stimulants,” said Dr. Arria, associate professor of behavioral and community health and CYAHD director. “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.”
The study makes it clear: sustaining high levels of energy drink consumption can lead to a higher risk of substance abuse. Not just alcohol and caffeine, but prescription medications and cocaine. Pretty scary, right?
What is the link between energy drinks and substance abuse? The study states that the exact biological mechanism is unclear. What is clear to see is that consuming energy drinks can have long-term risks, especially among young adult consumers.
1. Arria, Amelia M. et al., “Trajectories of Energy Drink Consumption and Subsequent Drug Use During Young Adulthood.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, VOLUME 179, 424-432.