A new study has given new insights on the use of Energy drinks as a gateway to cocaine use. The researchers at the University of Maryland School of Public Health found that individuals who consumed energy drinks were at greater risk for doing cocaine.
Apart from susceptibility to abuse cocaine, the young adults aged between 21 and 24 were at greater risk for using prescription stimulants for non-medical uses and problem drinking.
The research involved 1,099 study participants who were recruited as 18-year-old college students. The students who didn't consume energy drinks as they got older were less likely to develop substance-abuse problems.
The director of the University’s Center on Young Adult Health and Development, Amelia Arria, explained that factors contributing to a propensity for risk taking, susceptibility to peer pressure and changes in energy-drink users' brain that make them like stimulants more.
Arria revealed that energy drinks are not as regulated as some other beverages. One policy implication is to consider options for regulating the maximum amount of caffeine that can be put in an energy drink. Her emphasis was that parents need to be aware of those risks when their child or adolescent or young adult wants to make a decision about what sort of beverage to consume, adding that they need to be aware of the potential risk.
The beverage market has had energy drinks booming. Last year, North American retail sales were close to $11 billion, up from less than $5 billion in 2007, according to the market research company Euromonitor.
The major players in the energy drinks include Red Bull, Monster, Amp and Rockstar. Anheuser-Busch announced last month that it was acquiring the organic energy drink maker Hiball Energy.
Existing data indicate that an estimated one in every three American teens and young adults consume energy drinks or energy shots with 50% of college students reporting they've taken them in the past month. The existing data was cited by Arria and her co-authors.
The vice president of policy for the American Beverage Association, William Dermody, questioned the methodology and comprehensiveness of the University of Maryland study and said it didn't prove causation.
“Mainstream energy drinks have been extensively studied and confirmed safe for consumption by government safety authorities worldwide, including a recent review by the European Food Safety Authority. Nothing in this study counters this well-established fact," he explained, adding that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates the drinks' ingredients and labeling.