Energy drinks and escalation in drug use severity: An emergent hazard to adolescent health

Wanda E. Leal, Dylan B. Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The aim of the current study is to determine whether energy drink consumption contributes to drug use and, more specifically, an escalation in the severity of drug use. We first examine the association between energy drink use and hard drug use, and subsequently investigate whether soft drug use mediates this relationship. Potential moderating influences are also investigated by testing whether the degree of mediation varies by age, gender, and race. The current study uses a nationally representative sample of 8th (ages 13–14), 10th (ages 15–16), and 12th (ages 17–18) grade adolescents from the 2015 Monitoring the Future survey. Negative binomial regression is employed to examine associations between energy drink consumption and soft and hard drug use. Mediation results indicate that energy drink consumption is significantly associated with increased soft drug use, which is, in turn, associated with significant increases in hard drug use. This cascading effect of energy drink consumption on drug use appears to be stronger among younger females and older males. Results for the moderating effect of race are mixed. Energy drinks appear to pose an important threat to adolescent health in the form of soft and hard drug use. The United States may want to consider adopting energy drink policies similar to European countries and Canada, which require warning labels on beverages with high caffeine content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-396
Number of pages6
JournalPreventive Medicine
StatePublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Energy drinks
  • Hard drugs
  • Mediation
  • Soft drugs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Energy drinks and escalation in drug use severity: An emergent hazard to adolescent health'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this