Approximately one-third of teenagers in the US use energy drinks or shots—beverages with a high caffeine content that are intended to increase energy and concentration. Research from the University of Michigan (UM) has discovered a relationship between energy drink and alcohol consumption; teens who use energy drinks are more likely to consume alcohol.
Data was collected via the University of Michigan Monitoring the Future Study. This nationally representative sample included questionnaire responses from approximately 22,000 teens in grades eight, ten, and twelve. The researchers focused on responses regarding the consumption of soft drinks and energy drinks
The findings indicate that teens who use energy drinks were two to three times more likely to report engaging in other types of substance use compared to their peers who did not consume energy drinks, even when adjusted for age and other factors. The results also revealed that boys were more likely to use energy drinks than girls. Teens with less educated parents or without both parents in the home were also more likely to use energy drinks. The youngest teens, the eighth graders, reported the highest use of energy drinks. Overall, 30% of teens reported using caffeine-containing energy drinks or shots.
Soft drink consumption was linked to substance use as well, though not as strongly as energy drinks were. Over 40% of teens reported daily consumption of soft drinks with 20% reporting drinking diet soda daily.
Energy drink use has been linked to “sensation-seeking or risk orientation” behavior by other studies. There may be a connection between energy drinks and alcohol because energy drinks mask alcohol’s flavor and effects. The study highlights the need for parents and teens to be educated about the effects of caffeine on alcohol and the nutritional impact of energy drinks, whose high sugar and caffeine content are not beneficial for developing youth.
“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, concluded Yvonne Terry-McElrath, MSA, and her colleagues at the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
This research is published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.
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