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Increased Alcohol Consumption, Nonmedical Prescription Drug Use, and Illicit Drug Use Are Associated With Energy Drink Consumption Among College Students

Arria, Amelia M. PhD; Caldeira, Kimberly M. MS; Kasperski, Sarah J. MA; O'Grady, Kevin E. PhD; Vincent, Kathryn B. MA; Griffiths, Roland R. PhD; Wish, Eric D. PhD

Journal of Addiction Medicine: June 2010 - Volume 4 - Issue 2 - p 74-80
doi: 10.1097/ADM.0b013e3181aa8dd4
Original Article

Objectives: This longitudinal study examined the prevalence and correlates of energy drink use among college students, and investigated its possible prospective associations with subsequent drug use, including nonmedical prescription drug use.

Methods: Participants were 1060 undergraduates from a large, public university who completed 3 annual interviews, beginning in their first year of college. Use of energy drinks, other caffeinated products, tobacco, alcohol, and other illicit and prescription drugs were assessed, as well as demographic and personality characteristics.

Results: Annual weighted prevalence of energy drink use was 22.6%wt and 36.5%wt in the second and third year of college, respectively. Compared with energy drink nonusers, energy drink users had heavier alcohol consumption patterns, and were more likely to have used other drugs, both concurrently and in the preceding assessment. Regression analyses revealed that Year 2 energy drink use was significantly associated with Year 3 nonmedical use of prescription stimulants and prescription analgesics, but not with other Year 3 drug use, holding constant demographics, prior drug use, and other factors.

Conclusions: A substantial and rapidly growing proportion of college students use energy drinks. Energy drink users tend to have greater involvement in alcohol and other drug use and higher levels of sensation seeking, relative to nonusers of energy drinks. Prospectively, energy drink use has a unique relationship with nonmedical use of prescription stimulants and analgesics. More research is needed regarding the health risks associated with energy drink use in young adults, including their possible role in the development of substance use problems.

From the University of Maryland, Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) (AMA, KMC, SJK, KBV, EDW), Department of Psychology (KEO), University of Maryland; and Departments of Psychiatry (RRG) and Neuroscience (RRG), Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD.

Received for publication March 13, 2009; accepted April 17, 2009.

Send correspondence and reprint requests to Amelia M. Arria, PhD, Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR), University of Maryland, 4321 Hartwick Road, Suite 501, College Park, MD 20740. E-mail:

Supported by National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse: R01-DA14845, R01-DA03890 (to R.R.G.).

© 2010 American Society of Addiction Medicine