Energy drinks make a booming segment of the beverage industry. Statistics show that the sales of energy drinks in the United States amounted to approximately 2.8 billion U.S. dollars for the 13 weeks ended on Dec 24, 2016. These beverages are mostly targeted at young people and are promoted as products that increase alertness and enhance physical and mental performance. There has been an explosion of energy drinks in the market with fancy sounding names that exhort the rebellious side of the young. Some of the biggest names among energy drinks include Red Bull, Monster, Amp and Rockstar among others.
Most of the ‘energy’ of these drinks come from the large doses of caffeine and sugar. Some of these drinks contain sugar equivalent to three cups of coffee and as many as 14 teaspoons of sugar, which is by no means ‘healthy’ even for young athletes. The other ingredients are guarana (another source of caffeine sometimes called Brazilian cocoa), taurine, glucuronolactone, yohimbe, carnitine, bitter orange, ginseng, B vitamins and other herbal supplements.
The trend of the consumption of energy drinks by young people is a cause for concern. Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the amount of the ingredients of such beverages, the manufacturers tend to abuse their privileges by playing around with the content.
Even if the ingredients are listed at times, the amounts cited are usually inaccurate. Moreover, no one knows whether these ingredients have been tested on children for safety issues. These drinks inflict a range of side effects, such as irregular heartbeats and blood pressure changes. Several studies conducted on these beverages also don’t support all the claims made by the manufacturers regarding their ability to maintain energy and alertness. Coupled with this is the tendency of teens to mix their energy drinks with alcohol, which can have far-reaching effects.
Energy drinks touted as the gateway drug for cocaine
A new study conducted on young adults across a five-year period (age group 21 to 25) suggests that individuals who persistently consumed highly caffeinated energy drinks and continued doing so for long were more likely to abuse cocaine, use prescription stimulants for the nonmedical purposes and vulnerable to alcohol use disorder (AUD) at 25.
The study was conducted under the supervision of Dr. Amelia Arria, associate professor of behavioral and community health from the University of Maryland School of Public Health. The researchers monitored 1,099 college students at regular intervals to track the changes pertaining to health and risk-taking behaviors, including energy drink consumption and substance abuse.
While over half of the participants (51.4 percent) because of the persistent consumption of energy drinks displayed a ‘persistent trajectory’, approximately 17.4 percent of the participants represented the ‘intermediate trajectory’ and 20.6 percent were in the ‘non-use trajectory.’
The participants representing the ‘persistent trajectory’ and ‘intermediate trajectory’ were significantly more likely to abuse stimulant drugs, such as cocaine and prescription stimulants nonmedically and stood the risk of suffering from AUD at 25. The study was able to single out the consumption of energy drinks as the contributory factor because the researchers had controlled other factors, such as demographics, sensation-seeking behaviors, other caffeine consumption and previous substance use at the age of 21.
Although the biological mechanism involved in the progression from the consumption of energy drinks to stimulant drug use remains unclear, it raises a pertinent issue and serves as a warning to the unrestricted use of such products.
Reach out for help
Based on the above and many previous studies on the repercussions of energy drinks on the drug-taking behavior of a person, it would augur well for physicians, teens and their parents to stay informed on the effects of energy drinks. Additionally, there is a need to spread awareness about the consequences of mixing such energy drinks with alcohol, medications and antidepressants.
If you know someone addicted to such intoxicants, it is important to detox by removing the harmful chemicals from the body and preparing it for recovery. You can contact the NTR/NAD Detox of Arizona to find the state-of-the-art detoxification treatment centers in Arizona. Chat online or call our 24/7 helpline number 866-593-8453 to get information on drug detox treatment centers in Arizona.