A new study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine found a strong correlation between the consumption of energy drinks and alcohol and drug use among teens.
The study, which was lead by Yvonne M. Terry-McElrath, MSA, and colleagues of the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, analyzed self-reported data from about 22,000 students in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades.
Of the students surveyed, 30 percent reported consuming energy drinks or shots regularly. The study showed that teens who consumed energy drinks were three times more likely to smoke cigarettes and marijuana, and consume alcohol and amphetamines.
While researchers reported a higher risk of substance abuse in those who consume energy drinks, they stated that their findings did not establish causation.
The study also doesn't prove that energy drinks directly lead to substance abuse, but researchers stressed the need for better education on the effects of energy drinks.
"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," the study stated.
Energy drinks mixed with alcoholic beverages suppress the feelings of intoxication, according to the American Psychological Association. "Concerns soon arose that the 'energy' component of these beverages masked the feelings of intoxication that normally accompany alcohol use, leading people to drink more than they realized," according to the APA.
A follow-up report of the study by Business Insider noted that eighth-grade students had the highest consumption rate of energy drinks and shots compared with the 10th- and 12th-grade students in the study.
Some organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, have already spoken out against consumption of energy drinks by minors, citing the negative effects of energy drinks on children and underage teens.
"Rigorous review and analysis of the literature reveal that caffeine and other stimulant substances contained in energy drinks have no place in the diet of children and adolescents," according to a study the AAP conducted on energy drinks. "Furthermore, frequent or excessive intake of caloric sports drinks can substantially increase the risk for overweight or obesity in children and adolescents."
Most recently CNBC reported that a bill was introduced this week in the Maryland Legislature that would effectively ban the marketing and sale of energy drinks to minors under 18 years of age. If it passes, the bill would be the first of its kind in the United States.