A University of Maryland study concluded that teens and young adults who regularly drink energy drinks might be at an increased risk for alcohol abuse.
According to the study, performed in conjunction with Johns Hopkins, young people who consume energy drinks with frequency show a marked increase in alcohol dependency. The study involved over 1,000 university students and was included as part of a four-year research project on student life.
Roughly 10% of respondents said that they used energy drinks on a regular basis — almost every day. About one half of the respondents said they used the drinks minimally, or less than 52 drinks during the previous year. The remaining roughly 40% reported not using energy drinks.
The 10% who reported high energy drink usage also reported drinking alcohol more frequently and drinking greater amounts of alcohol per occasion than students who drank energy drinks with less frequency. According to the study, frequent energy drink consumers were almost two and one half times more likely to be alcohol dependent than non-consumers.
While the precise nature of the link between energy drink consumption and alcohol dependency remains unclear, several possibilities include:
- It could be that students who are partiers to begin with enjoy the beverages as part of their fun-at-all-costs mentality.
- It may be that students who are heavy drinkers use energy drinks the next morning to remedy a hangover.
- It is possible that the habit of mixing energy drinks with alcohol, which is a popular habit among college drinkers, actually creates problem drinking by extending each drinking session.
An important point: Caffeine in each energy drink is the equivalent of a couple of cups of coffee. That caffeine may be effective in keeping drinkers awake, but it does absolutely nothing to prevent the impairment that comes with heavy drinking. So, while there is still a lot to learn about the link between energy drink usage and alcohol addiction, there is no question that mixing the two is a highly dangerous practice.