Teens That Like Energy Drinks More Apt to Use Substances

Adolescents That Like Energy Drinks More Apt to Use Substances

Teenage boy drinking energy drink, using laptop, sitting on bed

Over 30 percent of American adolescents enjoy drinking beverages labeled as energy drinks. The high octane, high sugar drinks may also be an indicator of other likes, including alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.

The study by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research was based on data from the annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey that had polled 22,000 U.S. 8th, 10th and 12th grade students. Thirty percent of respondents said they had consumed caffeine-laden shots like 5 Hour Energy, or energy drinks such as Monster, Red Bull, Rockstar and Nos. More than 40 percent reported having a soft drink each day, and 20 percent said that they consumed a diet soda daily.

Energy drinks are more popular with boys than girls, and the 8th graders were the most likely to consume them. Kids with less educated parents and youth from single parent homes drank the most energy drinks.

Adolescents with a taste for caffeinated beverages were more apt to say they had used tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs recently. In fact, after controlling to rule out other potentially contributing factors, researchers found that energy drink-loving adolescents were two to three times more apt to have used another substance versus youth who did not consume the drinks.

This finding was true in every age group surveyed. Although there was also a link between soft drink consumption and substance use it was not as strong as the energy drink association.

The MTF study shows just how many adolescents are using energy drinks. And while soft drink sales have been dropping in recent years, sales of energy drinks are climbing. In 2012-13 Red Bull sales were at $3.4 billion, and Monster sales were at $3.1 billion.

The new study does not establish a causal relationship between energy drinks and substance use. Still, the increased risk factor is evident, and energy drinks are considered unhealthy dietary choices by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The MTF survey deals only with high school students, but energy drinks have been linked by other studies to alcohol abuse among young adults, especially college students. In college, students are downing these drinks in order to stay awake for longer alcohol drinking sessions. They mix the energy drinks with alcohol in many cases, creating a serious danger. The body is flooded with a depressive substance like alcohol and at the same time is being doused with a stimulant. Students who would normally pass out before reaching the point of alcohol poisoning are remaining awake and unaware of the dangerously toxic levels of alcohol they are drinking.

The MTF researchers say that energy drinks hold a similar risk appeal that also drives substance use. Parents of adolescents should be alert to the possibility that the very things which make an energy drink appealing could also make even more harmful substances equally attractive.

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