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Energy Drinks a Gateway Drug?

By November 25, 2010

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Does your child frequently drink caffeinated energy drinks? If so, you need to be aware of research that shows that individuals who consume the high-potency drinks are significantly more likely to develop alcohol dependence or become heavy drinkers.

This tendency is linked to regular energy drinks - like Red Bull, Monster and Rockstar - not the caffeinated drinks containing alcohol that have been in the news recently.

Researchers at the Treatment Research Institute surveyed 1,000 college students, asking about their use of energy drinks and their consumption of alcohol in the past 12 months. Even after controlling for other risk-taking characteristics of the students, the link between energy drink consumption and alcohol dependence persisted, researchers found.

Frequent users of energy drinks were defined as those who drank 52 energy drinks or more in the past 12 months (one per week).

Linked to Heavy Alcohol Consumption

Compared to non-users of energy drinks, frequent energy-drinker users were more likely:

  • To get drunk at an earlier age.
  • Drink more per drinking session.
  • More likely to develop alcohol dependence.

Amelia M. Arria, the lead author of the study, Director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, believes the use of energy drinks may be linked to other forms of substance abuse and plans to conduct future research to confirm the association.

A Gateway Drug?

But it's not only scientists who are seeing the link between energy drinks and other substance abuse. And it's not only college students who are influenced. One visitor to the About.com Alcoholism site posted a comment about young children using the caffeine-laden drinks.

"I work in a grocery," Andy G. says. "I get kids 8 years old buying Rockstar and Red Bull. Caffeine is the gateway drug, not weed."

A major concern with the energy drinks, experts say, is the fact that the are not regulated in any way and they do not have to post their ingredients on their labels.

"The fact that there is no regulation on the amount of caffeine in energy drinks or no requirements related to the labeling of contents or possible health risks is concerning." Arria said in a news release.

Source: Arria, AM, et al. "Energy Drink Consumption and Increased Risk for Alcohol Dependence." Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research Nov. 12, 2010.

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Photo: © Getty Images
Comments
November 29, 2010 at 2:07 pm
(1) Native_Guy82 says:

I believe these energy or sports drinks can be a gateway drug to illicit usage of other drugs. Experimentors users can use this drink to displace them out of their current situation. Like many other drugs, tolerance does occur, even with energy drinks. More and more is needed until they can’t get enough, thus, onward to the ‘nasty’ and more ‘potent’ drugs. This is what I believe unless there is some type of intervention; which could start in the home, school, church, by peers, or any organization.

December 15, 2010 at 6:26 pm
(2) The Recovery Place says:

Energy drinks that include alcohol in them are posing a large problem as well! Can you imagine the issue that will arise when young adolescents, who are already showing an increase in regular energy drink consumption, reach an age where alcohol becomes a tempting factor? There have already been reports of college aged students hospitalized and even dying from these incredibly dangerous, highly caffeinated and highly alcoholic drinks! At The Recovery Place we think itís important to raise awareness on this issue, check out our blog and let us know what you think!
http://www.therecoveryplace.net/social-network/blogs/blogpost/10-12-10/College_Cardio_That_Isn_t_Good_For_Your_Health_Energy_Drink_Facts.aspx

June 13, 2011 at 12:48 am
(3) Important_message says:

I agree that energy drink is an gateway drug. After I developed tolerance to caffeine I looked for alternative ‘drugs’ or nootropics. All over the internet they talk about how safe some nootropics are. So I bought Acetyl-l-carnitine and L-tyrosine and tried them. But I think they are all scams since I had second thoughts and researched further and it seems like acetyl-l-carnitine could cause pro-oxidation so I quit both straight away. So please be careful just because they are not illegal doesn’t mean they are safe.

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