Teenagers' energy drink habit linked to booze, drug abuse

Written by PTI | Toronto | Updated: Mar 7 2014, 21:01pm hrs
Teens who drink high-caffeine energy beverages are more likely to use alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, a new study has warned.

The uplifting effects of energy drinks are well advertised, but the new report finds consumption among teenagers may be linked with poor mental health and substance use.

The finding of the report has prompted researchers to call for putting limits on teen's access to the drinks and reduction in the amount of the caffeine in each can.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo and Dalhousie University found that high school students prone to depression as well as those who smoke marijuana or drink alcohol are more likely to consume energy drinks than their peers.

"While it remains unclear why these associations exist, the trend is a concern because of the high rate of consumption among teenagers," said Sunday Azagba, lead author on the research paper.

"These drinks appeal to young people because of their temporary benefits like increased alertness, improved mood and enhanced mental and physical energy," said Azagba.

Among the 8210 high school students surveyed, nearly two thirds reported using energy drinks at least once in the past year, with more than 20 per cent consuming them once or more per month.

Younger high school students were more likely to consume energy drinks than older ones.

"Marketing campaigns appear designed to entice youth and young adults. It's a dangerous combination, especially for those at an increased risk for substance abuse," said Azagba.

Energy drinks have been associated with a number of negative health effects, including cardiovascular symptoms, sleep impairment and nervousness and nausea, researchers said.

The side effects are caused by the beverages' high concentration of caffeine, they said.

"Given the negative effects of excessive caffeine consumption as well as the coincident occurrence of the use of energy drinks and other negative behaviours in teens, the trends we are seeing are more than cause for concern," said Azagba.

"In our opinion, at the very least steps should be taken to limit teens' access to energy drinks, to increase public awareness and education about the potential harms of these drinks and to minimise the amount of caffeine available in each unit," said Azagba.

The study was published in the journal Preventive Medicine.