Young Adult Energy Drink Consumption Linked With Drug Use

Energy drinks and pills

When we think of energy drinks, we know right off the bat that these beverages are not exactly healthy and that they have their own, inherent risks attached to consuming them. The Food and Drug Administration has yet to regulate energy drinks, so there is some concern as to the real effect that such beverages have on the human body. While energy drinks remain a staple in young adulthood, we may need to take a second glance at them and determine their value or lack thereof.

Recent research has unveiled yet another, previously hidden evil pertaining to energy drinks. Research indicates that energy drinks may predispose young people to drug use later in life. The University of Maryland School of Public Health did a study in 2017 on this. The study included 1,099 young adults between the ages of twenty-one to twenty-five. From the study results, more than fifty-one percent of those persons studied who consumed energy drinks on a regular basis had a higher likelihood of abusing cocaine and prescription stimulants later on in life. Furthermore, more than half of those who drank energy drinks were also predisposed to abuse alcohol by the age of twenty-five.

Key Indicators of the Maryland School Study

All participants in the Maryland School of Public Health were college students, so the study was performed in a controlled setting with all variables accounted for. The study was able to account for other factors such as other caffeine intake, peer pressure, proximity to energy drinks, the prevalence of energy drink consumption in the area, etc.

As the study progressed over several years, study authors were able to determine that young people who drank energy drinks on a regular basis were far more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, whereas those who never drank them or only drank them very occasionally were not so at risk. The study was able to analyze and survey respondents over the course of several years, gaining insight into the key indicators of each individual’s life and the true effect of energy drinks on them.

The Food and Drug Administration Needs to Regulate Energy Drinks

Energy drinks

The Food and Drug Administration regulates just about everything, but they do not regulate energy drinks. Because of this, energy drink manufacturers do not have to accurately label their products. They do not have to indicate exact caffeine content, and they do not have to indicate other, key ingredients that may be mixed in with the excessive caffeine amounts.

This lack of regulation is wrong. Energy drinks have already been proven to cause adverse health reactions, especially in young people. To learn that they have a proclivity for habit-forming behavior later in life is just another indicator of their risk.

While the moderation rule applies with energy drinks, we need to treat these beverages with a bit more care. While highly caffeinated energy drinks may be popular and may be risk-free when consumed occasionally, there is a risk when young people consume energy drinks excessively.

The key conclusion of the above study was that, by the age of twenty-five, those young adults involved in the study who were abusing cocaine and other stimulant drugs were fifty percent more likely to have had excessive energy drink consumption earlier in life. For those involved in the study who reached the age of twenty-five and were not actively abusing drugs, they were far less likely to have consumed energy drinks earlier in life.

While it is not sensible to completely condemn a beverage because it manifests as a gateway drug in some people, we do need to approach energy drinks with a little more sense and sensibility. For one thing, the FDA does need to start regulating energy drinks. For another, parents should caution their adolescent teens and young adult children of the potential risks of consuming them. We want a society where our beverages and foods do not act as a predisposition for later drug use.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.