Nearly 33 percent of young adults in the U.S. are at risk of being addicted to cocaine, take prescription medication for non-medical use, and become alcoholics. One in three people between the ages of 21 and 24 habitually consumes energy drinks, and a new study suggests they are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol later in life.
For the study, researchers from the University of Maryland followed the health and risk-taking habits of 1,099 college students over a four-year period. At the end of the analysis, the participants that drank highly caffeinated drinks were more likely to be addicted to cocaine, alcohol, or other substances than students who avoided the beverages.
“This study gives evidence of a specific contribution of energy drink consumption to later substance use,” said Amelia Arria, an associate professor and lead author of the study, as cited by NZ Herald. “The results suggest that energy drink users might be at heightened risk for other substance use, particularly stimulants.”
While the study seemed to find an association between energy drinks and future substance abuse, the researchers could not determine exactly why such a link should exist. Some possibilities for a connection include peer pressure, a higher inclination for risk-taking, and even effects on the brain that cause a craving for more potent stimulants.