Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Energy Drinks and Substance Abuse: Is There a Connection Among Teens?

Energy drinks may not be as innocuous as they seem, according to a new study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine. Though drinks like Red Bull are legally purchased by all ages and readily available, the study found that teenagers who regularly drink these highly caffeinated beverages are more likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or use drugs.

The study found that about 30 percent of the 22,000 high-school-aged participants drank energy drinks daily. Comparatively, about 40 percent drank regular soda and 20 percent drank diet soda on a daily basis. The teenagers who preferred energy drinks were two to three times more likely than their peers to report recent use of cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs.

According to the study, the following groups were more likely to use energy drinks as compared to peers:

  • 8th graders
  • Boys
  • Teenagers
  • Kids without two parents at home
  • Kids whose parents had less education

Said researchers, “The current study indicates that adolescent consumption of energy drinks/shots is widespread and that energy drink users also report heightened risk for substance use.”

What’s the Connection?

Is this study suggesting that teens who try an energy drink are more likely to then seek out illicit substances? Does use of energy drinks trigger substance abuse? If your son drinks energy drinks, is the study saying that he will ultimately abuse drugs?

No. The study identified a link between the two behaviors, an objective acknowledgement that it is not uncommon for a teen to abuse drugs and drink energy drinks. Certainly, kids who prefer sodas may abuse drugs as well, and there are a number of kids who drink energy drinks who will never develop a drug problem. The study results don’t even imply that there is anything inherently wrong with energy drinks or that they may not be appropriate for teen consumption.

So why is there a connection? It may be that kids who are drawn to the high created by drugs and alcohol first find a rush in a big boost of caffeine. Marketing, too, may play a role since so many energy drink producers gear their ads to teens. If your son drinks energy drinks, there isn’t necessarily a need for concern, but if you note a taste for reckless behavior in addition to other risks for drug use and abuse in your son, it’s something to keep an eye on.

Seeking Balance: Helping Your Son Stop Abusing Drugs

If it’s thrill-seeking that drives your son’s choices and drug use is the result, comprehensive substance abuse treatment can help him to find balance in his life. Contact us at Muir Wood today and find out more about our hands-on, experiential treatment program for boys that prioritizes outdoor activities and the interactive experience of rehabilitation. Help your son find happiness and excitement in sober activities and positive living today.