Connection Between Energy Drinks and Substance Abuse Among Teens

Many individuals rely heavily on caffeine to make it through the day, whether in the form of a cup of coffee, tea or even an energy drink.  The quickening jolt of caffeine can be the much needed boost to function under the high pressure demands countless Americans face on an ongoing basis. Sadly, there may be a correlation between energy drinks and substance abuse in teens.

Energy drinks, in particular, have grown increasingly popular, especially among teenagers and young adults.  A recent study demonstrated that two-thirds of high school students surveyed reported consumption of energy drinks, with the most common types being Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy, and Monster [1].

Marketing campaigns for these popular drinks target this vulnerable age group by touting benefits of these beverages, such as increased stamina, energy, and improved mood.  This can be exemplified in the campaign slogan of Red Bull: “Red Bull gives you wings!”

The sales of energy drinks have expanded dramatically in light of these marketing ploys.  However, these short-term advantages pale in comparison to the long-term risks associated with consumption of energy drinks.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), emergency room visits involving energy drinks increased to over 13,000 in 2009, with about half of these trips made by 18 to 25-year-old individuals [2].

Negative health effects associated with frequent use of energy drinks include cardiovascular issues, gastrointestinal distress, nervousness, and sleep dysfunctions.

Researchers have now made connections between highly caffeinated energy drinks and drug use among teenagers.  In a study completed from the University of Waterloo, researchers surveyed over 8,000 junior and senior high school students in Canada.

Results from the data revealed that substance abuse and depression were all higher among energy drink users relative to non-users.  Researchers also found that male high school students were more likely to consume energy drinks than female students [1].

Given the increased usage of energy drinks among teenagers and young adults, the findings from this study are alarming.

Lead author of this study, Sunday Azagba, noted, “In our opinion, at the very least, steps should be taken to limit teens’ access to energy drinks, to increase public awareness and education about the potential harms of these drinks and to minimize the amount of caffeine available in each unit.

Teen struggling with energy drinks and substance abuseThis won’t eliminate the problem entirely, but steps like these can help mitigate harm to our youth.  This is something we need to take seriously.  Change won’t happen without a concerted effort.”

While further research is needed in this area, this study brings greater awareness of the negative health effects that may be connected with popular fads, such as consuming energy drinks.

With the side effects that are observed from energy drink use, it may give cause to re-examine the place of these trendy beverages in the hands of a teenager.


[1]: Azagba, et al. An emerging adolescent health risk: Caffeinated energy drink consumption patterns among high school students.  Preventive Medicine 2014 (54-59).

[2]:  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,

*image courtesy of stockimages at

About the authors:

Jacquelyn Ekern

Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC founded Addiction Hope® in January 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well-regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope®.

Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions (such as gambling, sex, shopping, etc).

Because she believes in holistic recovery that addresses all of the destructive patterns or behaviors engaged in by the individual, it became clear that it would be helpful to also have a site that deals foremost with addiction, for those that suffer from addiction as a primary concern.

Jacquelyn Ekern is a licensed therapist and she is President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. which operates both the Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope organizations and websites.

Jacquelyn enjoys art, working out, walking her golden retriever “Whisky”, reading, painting and time with family.

Crystal Karges HeadshotCrystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC

Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing,

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed and Approved by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 6, 2019
Published March 14, 2014, on