Raging Red Bull: Energy Drinks The New "Gateway Drug?"

By Kenneth Garger 07/13/11

New study finds correlation between energy drinks, prescription meds, and binge drinking.



Crack in a Can?
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Recently released research conducted by several social scientists at the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions appears to show a pronounced link between the consumption of energy drinks like Red Bull, Rock Star, and Four Loko and abuse of other more illicit substances. In a recent study published by the  Journal of Caffeine Research, scientists at the university surveyed the drug habits of 226 musicians ranging in age from 18-45, most of whom were regular caffeine-consumers, and compared them with their counterparts who consumed mostly energy drinks  They found that more than 50% of the Red-Bull swigging respondents also confessed to “misusing” prescriptions pills, while only 13% of of old-school coffee drinkers reported abuse of prescription drugs. Not surprisingly, the most jarring finding is the huge correlation between energy drinks and binge drinking. A whopping 76% of test subjects who regularly consumed energy drinks admitted to binge drinking. Only 59% of non-energy drink consumers reported binge drinking experiences. 

Previous studies using college students and athletes as respondents drew similar results, said the report. This may simply be a generational pattern, as younger adults and teens are more prone to consume so-called “high performance energy drinks” than their graying companions. Similarly, both musicians and college students tend to be younger adults and are more apt to binge drink. Still, while it's probably too early to draw any major conclusions from this minor, but, uh, stimulating study, you might want to give it a little thought before grabbing the Red Bull by the horns.

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Ken Garger is a reporter for the New York Post. You can follow him on Twitter.