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Energy drinks linked to risk behavior and Delay Discounting among adolescents (2016-05-04)

There is growing concern over potential harm from knocking back too many energy drinks. Energy drink use is associated with increased risk behavior and delay discounting among adolescents and college students.

Like their soda brethren, energy drinks can be sugar and calorie bombs, with up to 53 grams of the sweet stuff and 260 calories per can.
Unlike coffee or soda, many energy drinks contain multiple stimulants and vitality-enhancing ingredients such as taurine, guarana, ginseng, and B vitamins; how these ingredients interact is largely unknown.

A new study published in the Journal of Caffeine Research, Johns Hopkins scientists examined the relationship between energy drinks and risk and between energy drink use and delay discounting.

The study included a nationwide sample of 874 young adults, ages 18 to 28 with past 30-day consumption of caffeine and alcohol, who completed an online survey.

Participants completed an online survey of energy drink use, drug use, sexual activity, alcohol misuse (alcohol use disorders identification test), sensation seeking (four-item Brief Sensation Seeking Scale), and delay discounting of monetary rewards and condom use.

Respondents who consumed one or more energy drinks per week were twice as likely to smoke cigarettes and more than twice as likely to abuse prescription and illicit drugs such as Ritalin and cocaine.

Energy drinkers were also more likely to smoke marijuana (56 percent claimed they had), use prescription opioids such as Vicodin (27 percent), drive without wearing a seatbelt (53 percent), drive while intoxicated (30 percent), and participate in a hazardous sport like snowboarding, bungee jumping, or parkour, a form of physical training run over a risky obstacle course (26 percent).

Reckless sexual behavior reported by weekly energy drink consumers also was high. Sixty-three percent said they had engaged in unprotected sex with someone other than their spouses, and 69 percent said they'd had sex while drunk or high.

There's more. Maggie Sweeney, a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and co-author of the study, says that respondents who reported using energy drinks more than once per week were also associated with a sort of impulsive decision making called delay discounting, for example, taking $20 now rather than waiting a week to receive $60.

The researchers are not making any causal link between downing a couple of Rockstars and subsequently having unsafe sex or driving while drunk. Maggie Sweeney, a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and co-author of the study says a tired person who might have left a party to go home and to bed after a couple of drinks might instead recharge with an energy drink, then stay and drink more.

Other studies have concluded that high-caffeine beverages can affect drinkers' perception of how impaired they are; the jolt from an energy drink might mask the effects of too much alcohol, leading someone to think they're OK to drive.

For more information
Journal of Caffeine Research
Weekly Energy Drink Use Is Positively Associated with Delay Discounting and Risk Behavior in a Nationwide Sample of Young Adults

Johns Hopkins University