Ten years ago, Redux Beverages released an ultra-caffeinated energy drink that they named Cocaine, because that seemed like a super idea. "When a person sees the name of the drink, some psychological effect happens and the person is already experiencing the energy buzz before they even open the can," Cocaine inventor Jamey Kirby said at the time.
Kirby seems almost prescient now, after a new study suggests that consumption of energy drinks like Cocaine might lead to the use of actual cocaine. According to research from the University of Maryland School of Public Health, young adults who regularly required Red Bull (and its companions) to get their wings were "significantly more likely" to use cocaine, to abuse prescription stimulants, and to be at greater risk of abusing alcohol.
Dr. Amelia Arria and her colleagues studied 1,900 young adults for five years, from ages 21 through 25. Arria checked in with the participants annually to track their health and "risk-taking behaviors," a category that included both chugging energy drinks and using drugs. She discovered that those who frequently downed Amps, Monsters, and other gas-station staples were more likely to graduate to the hard stuff.
"The results suggest that energy drink users might be at heightened risk for other substance use, particularly stimulants," Arria said in a statement. "Because of the longitudinal design of this study, and the fact that we were able to take into account other factors that would be related to risk for substance use, this study provides evidence of a specific contribution of energy drink consumption to subsequent substance use."
The percentage of participants (51.4 percent) who sustained their energy drink consumption during the course of the study and those who were on a more "intermediate trajectory" (defined as those whose consumption increased) were all more likely to use cocaine and prescription pick-me-ups than those who either never drank energy drinks or those whose usage decreased. (Neither of the latter groups were found to have any higher risk of coke or stimulant use and, interestingly, regardless of the group, energy drink consumption had no noticeable connection to smoking weed or cigarettes).
Additional research would be needed to determine causation rather than just correlation, but Arria and her team have frequently studied the risks of energy drinks and tried to convince the FDA to increase regulations and require caffeine content to be listed on each can. Arria has also suggested that it would be worthwhile to conduct similar studies on even younger participants, "because they too are regularly consuming energy drinks." MUNCHIES has reached out to Red Bull and Monster Energy for comment on the study's findings but has not yet received a response.
It might not be a bad idea to lay off the Cocaine, kids—both kinds.
UPDATE: The American Beverage Association provided the following statement in response to the study:
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.