Objectives: Examine energy drink/shot and regular and diet soft drink use among United States secondary school students in 2010–2011, and associations between such use and substance use.
Methods: We used self-reported data from cross-sectional surveys of nationally representative samples of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students and conducted multivariate analyses examining associations between beverage and substance use, controlling for individual and school characteristics.
Results: Approximately 30% of students reported consuming energy drinks or shots; more than 40% reported daily regular soft drink use, and about 20% reported daily diet soft drink use. Beverage consumption was strongly and positively associated with past 30-day alcohol, cigarette, and illicit drug use. The observed associations between energy drinks and substance use were significantly stronger than those between regular or diet soft drinks and substance use.
Conclusions: This correlational study indicates that adolescent consumption of energy drinks/shots is widespread and that energy drink users report heightened risk for substance use. This study does not establish causation between the behaviors. Education for parents and prevention efforts among adolescents should include education on the masking effects of caffeine in energy drinks on alcohol- and other substance-related impairments, and recognition that some groups (such as high sensation–seeking youth) may be particularly likely to consume energy drinks and to be substance users.