CBS Local — A new study says that young, college-aged adults who regularly consumed energy drinks were at a higher risk of abusing other substances later in life. Researchers at the University of Maryland found that 21-year-olds who drank highly-caffeinated energy beverages had an increased chance of abusing alcohol or other non-prescribed stimulants by age 25.
The study followed nearly 1,100 college students over a five-year period and tracked their continued use of energy drinks. Over half of the students were found to have kept up their high energy drink usage over the course of the study. That group’s “persistent trajectory” reportedly lined up with those typically at risk for abusing cocaine or suffering from an alcohol use disorder, according to the findings.
Lead researcher Dr. Amelia Arria says the study gives scientists greater proof energy drinks could be a gateway drug.
“Because of the longitudinal design of this study, and the fact that we were able to take into account other factors that would be related to risk for substance use, this study provides evidence of a specific contribution of energy drink consumption to subsequent substance use,” Dr. Arria added.
The researchers suggest more studies need to be done on teens and children to see if the addictive pattern is the same.
“Future studies should focus on younger people, because we know that they too are regularly consuming energy drinks,” Dr. Arria suggests.