Among Young Adults, Energy Drinks Linked to Later Cocaine Use

Top view of energy drink cansPeople between the ages of 21 and 24 who consume energy drinks are more likely to use cocaine and abuse prescription stimulants at age 25, according to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The study also found energy drink use fell between ages 21 and 25.

Energy Drink Use Linked to Stimulant Abuse

The study followed 1,099 participants beginning when they were 18-year-old college students. Researchers conducted annual assessments of participants’ use of energy drinks and other substances.

At age 21, 62.5% of participants used energy drinks, compared to 49.1% by age 25. Just 20.6% of participants never used energy drinks, but 51.4% consistently used energy drinks over a four-year period. The study dubbed this group the “persistent trajectory” group. “Desisting” users accounted for 10.6% of the group, decreasing their use over time. “Intermediate” users were 17.4% of the total, falling in between persisting and desisting users.

By age 25, members of the persistent and intermediate trajectory groups were significantly more likely to use cocaine or to abuse prescription stimulants for non-medical reasons. Even after researchers accounted for other factors that predict substance abuse—including demographics, prior substance abuse, sensation-seeking behavior, and caffeine consumption—energy drink consumption remained the most significant predictor of stimulant abuse.

The study found no correlation between either marijuana or tobacco consumption and later stimulant abuse.

Do Energy Drinks Lead to Substance Abuse?

The study did not explore why or how energy drinks might predict later substance abuse. Researchers also did not uncover evidence that energy drinks cause later substance abuse. Instead, the study suggests people who consume energy drinks early in adulthood might already be at an increased risk of substance abuse. Stimulants promote feelings of energy and alertness, potentially offering users a stronger version of the sensations they experience with energy drinks.

More research is necessary to explore the link and understand other potential risk factors.


  1. Arria, A. M., Caldeira, K. M., Bugbee, B. A., Vincent, K. B., & O’Grady, K. E. (2017). Trajectories of energy drink consumption and subsequent drug use during young adulthood. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.06.008
  2. Energy drink consumption could lead to cocaine use, study says. (2017, August 15). Retrieved from

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  • Timothy C

    Timothy C

    August 23rd, 2017 at 2:22 PM

    There is no definitive correlation between these two things so even though it could appear one way does not necessarily mean that there is that conclusive cause and effect situation that happens. Now whether those drinks could possibly be a gateway to things that are stronger, okay, of course there could be that possibility. But there could also be the possibility that there are other things that go on in the home that would make one apt to drink them and then eventually get into drugs. Sooo it could be multiple things, hard to narrow down to just one.

  • Sam


    August 24th, 2017 at 2:43 PM

    This is ridiculous. Just because you want a little boost from an energy drink doesn’t mean that you are eventually going to look for a stronger bump.

  • Jackson


    August 25th, 2017 at 2:33 PM

    Looking at things this way is absolutely silly. Of course there could be one hundred things that you do every day that could be a gateway to future bad behavior for any one of us. Much of this and how that leads us into our own choices about said behavior will be all about how we have been raised and what kind of coping mechanisms we have been taught over the years. If we have been shown that we can rely on ourselves and that our strength and resilience can get us through, then I think that this would be a non issue. If we are always looking to something external though for a boost, then yeah, it could possibly be a problem later on. I just don’t think that there is any definitive way to tell until you are confronted with it.

  • Melodye


    August 26th, 2017 at 5:16 PM

    well this just seems that it would be a real stretch to me.

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