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.
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. Related Information: