Energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster, and AMP contain caffeine. This study looks for a correlation between energy drink use and alcohol and drug abuse. It examines whether the correlation is to the energy drink or just any caffeine-containing consumable. The data was collected from 226 musicians aged between 18 and 45. “Frequency of energy drink use was positively associated with heavy episodic (‘‘binge’’) drinking, alcohol-related social problems, and prescription drug misuse.” No association was found with illegal drug use.
Popular energy drinks like Red Bull and Rockstar are caffeinated, like soft drinks and coffee, but appeal to a different cultural section. The imagery used in their advertisements hints at the drinker’s willingness to take risks and live on the edge. Does the consumption of energy drinks indicate risky, problem behavior, unlike the consumption of plain caffeine? The study analyzes the correlation between the use of energy drinks and the use of illegal drugs, and whether this correlation applies specifically to energy drinks or to the general use of caffeine by substance abusers. Research shows a link between caffeine and the use of addictive substances like alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and cocaine. A common factor may control one’s dependence on all these substances. It is unclear whether caffeine is the reason for the co-occurrence of energy drink consumption and substance abuse. Musicians are at similar elevated risks as students and athletes, and have been studied.
* The researchers selected 226 professional or amateur musicians, aged between 18 and 45, through advertising. Their race, education, marital status, and employment status were recorded.
* They reported the frequency of consuming energy drinks, other caffeinated drinks, prescriptions drugs without a prescription, and illegal drugs. The frequency of binge drinking and related problems was used to create an “Alcohol Problems Scale.” The frequency of smoking was also recorded.
* Standard tests for personality traits, sensation seeking, impulsivity, and sociability were taken by participants.
* The “Short Test of Musical Preferences” tested their liking for various musical genres. The genres they performed regularly were noted.
* Among the participants, 56.9 percent used energy drinks, while 93.8 percent used some form of caffeine drink. Caffeine itself did not correlate with substance abuse.
* Energy drink users were mostly younger, male, sensation-seekers, and impulsive. They were more likely to appreciate and play unconventional (rap/hip-hop) music.
* Users of energy drinks had higher chances of being smokers, binge drinkers, and drug users. They were more likely to misuse prescription drugs. Almost all of them used other caffeinated drinks.
* Statistically, energy drinking correlates with binge drinking and alcohol-related problems. Professional musicians were less likely to misuse drugs.
The authors describe the findings as tentative and requiring replication. The participants belonged to one non-random region. Thus, the results cannot be extrapolated. Since the study is cross-sectional, it gives a snapshot of the situation, and does not explain the underlying causes. Correlation between the use of an energy drink together with alcoholic drinks could not be gauged.
Caffeine is psychoactive and addictive. A positive effect of small amounts on mood, alertness, and cognition is reported, although higher levels have serious health risks. Among musicians, caffeinated energy drink users show higher alcohol and legal-drug-related problems, but not illicit drug abuse. Caffeine, by itself, is not correlated to substance abuse. Marketing strategies used by manufacturers glorify unhealthy risk-taking, using drug-related imagery and often target athletes, students, and musicians. The dosages of the ingredients in the drink are unspecified by the manufacturer, and are often suspect. Although not obvious, the use of energy drinks has negative effects on people’s choices and should therefore be discouraged.
For More Information:
Energy Drink Use and Substance Use among Musicians
Publication Journal: Journal of Caffeine Research, 2011
By Kathleen E. Miller; Brian M. Quigley; University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Buffalo
*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.