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Energy drinks linked to substance abuse?


High school students who regularly consume energy drinks and soft drinks are more likely to abuse substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, and illicit drugs.


High school students who regularly consume energy drinks and soft drinks are more likely to abuse substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, and illicit drugs. The finding comes from a recent University of Michigan study that used self-reported data from cross-sectional surveys of nationally representative samples of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students.

The researchers found that almost one-third (30%) of the students reported consuming energy drinks or shots; 40% reported daily use of regular soft drinks; and 20% reported daily use of diet soft drinks. They also found that consumption of the beverages was strongly and positively associated with use of alcohol, cigarettes, and/or illicit drugs during the past 30 days, with the strongest association between energy drinks and those substances.

Consumption frequency was significantly higher for boys than for girls and was negatively related to having 2 parents in the household and to higher average parental education.

Consumption of energy drinks is particularly worrisome because energy drinks contain significantly more nonnutritive stimulants (eg, caffeine, guarana, taurine) than soft drinks. Soft drinks are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to contain no more than 71 mg of these substances per 12-ounce serving. Energy drinks, on the other hand, contain anywhere from 2.5 to 171 mg per ounce.

The study coincides with an FDA investigation into the safety of caffeine-containing foods and beverages, especially for children and adolescents. The investigation was prompted by reports of hospitalizations and even deaths after consuming highly caffeinated drinks or energy shots.

An analysis by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that at least through 2010, energy drinks were an uncommon source of caffeine for most children and teenagers. Although about three-quarters of children and adolescents aged to 22 years consume caffeine on a daily basis, the most common source is soft drinks. However, coffee and energy drinks are slowly encroaching on soft drinks’ territory. 



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