A study published by the Journal of Addiction Medicine conducted with college students showed a direct association between energy drink consumption and subsequent nonmedical use of prescription stimulants.
The study also indicated that that college student who consumed energy drinks have a higher risk for abusing alcohol and cocaine.
The Road from a Quick Lift to Addiction
This is not surprising as tolerance will build up to almost any drug and when the caffeine buzz from the energy drinks is not enough to keep them going, a person is likely to turn to something stronger, be it the prescription drug Adderall or an illicit drug such as cocaine. Adderall, a drug given to children and adults who are diagnosed as having ADHD, became hugely popular amongst college students in recent years and is now known as the “study drug”.
College students are susceptible to use of stimulants of any kind, due to the pressure they are under to complete assignments or cram for tests late into the night. Additional factors enter in when students get into the party and nightclub scene, often staying up late and needing that extra kick a stimulant provides to get them off to class in the morning.
The study also showed an increased risk for alcohol use where excessive caffeine drinks were being consumed. This is not such an obvious conclusion but if you ask anyone who using stimulants most will tell you that they go hand in hand with alcohol. As stimulants often cause anxiety as the body functions speed way above normal, the alcohol helps take the edge off. For those who are already drinking heavily, stimulants are often used to counteract the sedative effects of alcohol and allow them to keep “partying” though the night.
The Potential for Overdose
Students need to be aware that all drugs have the potential for addiction and are essentially poisons. While it would be almost impossible to overdose on coffee or an energy drink, enough caffeine in a condensed enough dose could actually kill someone. Once someone progresses to a stronger form of stimulant such as the amphetamines or dextroamphetamine in Adderall, the potential for overdose becomes very real. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, taking stimulants such as amphetamines or cocaine can raise a person’s body temperature and blood pressure to dangerous levels. They also can make the heart beat irregularly, which can then lead to seizures, heart failure, and death.
With a new school year beginning it’s important to talk to teens and college students about how excessive use of energy drinks can lead to a desire for more potent stimulants and set someone on the road to a serious addiction.