Are Energy Drinks the Real Gateway Drugs to Substance Abuse?

Energy drinks might have you living more of the rock star life than you actually want. No, they won’t result in paparazzi following you around or photographers trying to snap your photo at every turn. But research shows energy drink consumption is linked to substance abuse later in life. While people continue to argue whether alcohol is the gateway drug to harsher substances, new research shows that energy drinks may be the real gateway drugs that can lead to alcohol or other substance abuse problems later in life.

A study published in the medical journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that young adults in their twenties who regularly consume energy drinks are far more likely to become illicit substance abusers later in life. The researchers found that those who regularly drank energy drinks were far more likely to use cocaine, non-prescription stimulants and excessive alcohol later in life.

While people of many ages drink energy drinks, the largest users of energy drinks are males between the ages of 18 and 34. The World Health Organization (WHO) also warns that energy drinks may pose a threat to public health, particularly to the health of children and adolescents. Sadly, energy drink consumers are often children and adolescents, who make up a large portion of the users for these beverages. An estimated 68 percent of adolescents and 18 percent of children below the age of 10 drink energy drinks, which could have unsafe amounts of caffeine and sugar for their developing bodies and nervous systems. The American Academy of Pediatrics already warns parents not to let their children consume these beverages.

Substance abuse later in life is not the only alarming potential side-effect of these beverages. Some other side-effects of drinking energy beverages can include: flushing, headaches, nausea, lethargy, abnormal heart rate, loss of consciousness and even death.

Some brands of energy drinks contain as much as 500 mg of caffeine, or the equivalent of drinking 14 cans of soda in a single sitting. That’s an alarming amount of caffeine even for fully-grown adults but a shocking and unacceptable amount for children. Caffeine stimulates the cardiovascular system and may lead to heart abnormalities.

Additionally, drinking energy beverages often leads to a water consumption shortfall since the drinks may replace the necessary water people need to consume in a day. Sufficient water intake is needed for every single function in the body, from cellular energy production to ensuring proper brain signalling. Remember: water conducts electricity and we are electrical beings—that’s actually how our brain and nervous systems optimally function.

A diet high in fruits and vegetables should provide all the energy people need in their life. Stimulants of any kind are unnecessary when people cut out the excessive amounts of sugar and refined carbs that fill their diet. That’s because sugar and refined carbs cause rapid energy increases but they also cause severe energy drops soon afterward. This energy rollercoaster causes us to feel exhausted and crave stimulants to pick us up, but the result of choosing stimulants like energy drinks is a severe energy crash later in the day. Then we crave another pick-me-up…and so the cycle continues.

Based on the research, energy drinks could be labelled the gateway drug to alcohol abuse, cocaine use or non-prescription stimulant abuse, but I’m guessing you won’t see that in any advertisements currently in use. It doesn’t exactly hold as much appeal as the current ads used to promote these stimulants to children and other individuals, now does it?

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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-news World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, president of PureFood BC, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life.




Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.



Marija M
Marija M1 years ago

No, thank you.

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson1 years ago


Mark T
Mark Turner1 years ago


Winn A
Winn Adams1 years ago

Energy Drinks taste nasty.

Michele B
Michele B1 years ago

I'm thinking that THIS is a bit of a STRETCH personally

Renata Kovacs
Renata Kovacs1 years ago

Not so sure about this ..

Ruth S
Ruth S1 years ago


Janis K
Janis K1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.