College Students Who Use Energy Drinks More Than Twice as Likely to Initiate Nonmedical Use of Prescription Stimulants and Analgesics in Subsequent Year

Cleared2Drive college student studyingMore than one-third (36.5%) of third-year college students reported that they consumed energy drinks in 2006, according to data from the College Life Study, an ongoing longitudinal study of a cohort of college students recruited from one large, public, mid-Atlantic university.

Energy drink use was significantly related to higher levels of past and concurrent alcohol and drug use (data not shown). In addition, energy drink users were significantly more likely to subsequently initiate the nonmedical use of prescription stimulants and analgesics.

Nearly one-fifth (18.8%) of energy drink users who reported no prescription stimulant use in their second year of college subsequently started using prescription stimulants nonmedically the following year, compared to only 8.2% of energy drink nonusers. Similar results were found for the initiation of the nonmedical use of prescription analgesics (8.5% vs. 4.0%). Additionally, energy drink use predicted subsequent nonmedical use of prescription stimulants and analgesics, even after controlling for demographics, sensation seeking, caffeine consumption, and prior use of the drug of interest. However, no such association was found for subsequent use of other drugs (i.e., tobacco, marijuana, hallucinogens, cocaine, ecstasy, or prescription tranquilizers).

According to the authors, “one possible explanation is that energy drinks, like prescription drugs, might be regarded by some students as safer, more normative, or more socially acceptable than using illicit ‘street’ drugs…” (p. 79).  Lets hope that “explanation” gets rejected quick, fast and in a hurry!

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