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Energy Drink and Other Substance Use Among Adolescent and Young Adult Emergency Department Patients

Cotter, Bradford V. BS; Jackson, Deidrya A. E. BS; Merchant, Roland C. MD, MPH, ScD; Babu, Kavita M. MD; Baird, Janette R. PhD; Nirenberg, Ted PhD; Linakis, James G. MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e3182a6403d
Original Articles

Objective This study aimed to understand current patterns of energy drink use and compare the extent of usage of energy drinks and other commonly used and misused substances between adolescent (13–17-years-old) and young adult (18–25-years-old) emergency department (ED) patients.

Methods During a 6-week period between June and August 2010, all patients presenting to an adult or pediatric ED were asked to complete a computer-based, anonymous questionnaire regarding use of energy drinks and other substances. Wilcoxon rank-sum, 2-sample tests of binomial proportions, Pearson χ2 testing, and regression models were used to compare energy drink and substance use by age groups.

Results Past 30-day energy drink use was greater for young adults (57.9%) than adolescents (34.9%) (P < 0.03). Adolescents typically consumed a mean of 1.5 and young adults a mean of 2.6 energy drinks per day when using energy drinks and drank at most a mean of 2.4 and 2.6 drinks per day, respectively. Among adolescents, energy drink usage was more common than alcohol, “street” or illicit drugs, and tobacco usage, but less common than caffeine product usage. For young adults, energy drink usage was more common than “street” or illicit drugs, but less common than caffeine use, and similar to tobacco and alcohol usage. Young adult energy drink users were more likely than young adult non–energy drink users also to use tobacco and caffeine.

Conclusions Energy drink use is common among ED patients. Given the high prevalence of energy drink use observed, emergency physicians should consider the involvement of energy drinks in the presentations of young people.

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From the *Alpert Medical School of Brown University; Departments of †Emergency Medicine, ‡Epidemiology, and §Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Alpert Medical School of Brown University; ∥Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Brown University; and ¶Department of Pediatrics, Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Roland C. Merchant, MD, MPH, ScD, Department of Emergency Medicine, Rhode Island Hospital, 593 Eddy St, Claverick Bldg, Providence, RI 02903 (e-mail:

This study was supported by a Summer Assistantship grant awarded to B.V.C. and a Student Research Assistantship awarded to D.A.E.J. by The Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University.

Preliminary data from this study were presented at the North American Congress of Clinical Toxicology in Washington, DC, on September 24, 2011, and the American College of Emergency Physicians Scientific Assembly Research Forum on October 16, 2011, in San Francisco, CA.

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