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Energy Drinks, Soft Drinks, and Substance Use Among United States Secondary School Students

Terry-McElrath, Yvonne, M.; O'Malley, Patrick, M.; Johnston, Lloyd, D.

doi: 10.1097/01.ADM.0000435322.07020.53
Original Research

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.

From the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

Send correspondence and reprint requests to Yvonne M. Terry-McElrath, MSA, Institute for Social Research Room 2344, University of Michigan, PO Box 1248, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. E-mail:

Supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA01411).

The study sponsor had no role in (a) study design; (b) the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; (c) the writing of the report; or (d) the decision to submit the manuscript for publication. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funder.

None of the authors have financial disclosures or commercial associations that might pose a conflict of interest.

Received May 23, 2013

Accepted September 05, 2013

© 2014 American Society of Addiction Medicine