Energy Drinks and Alcohol Abuse in Teens

Many adolescents and college students ingest large amounts of energy drinks to stay awake.

New research shows that abuse of energy drinks is strongly linked with increased risks of heavy drinking and alcohol dependence.

A study was done utilizing data from more than 1,000 students enrolled at a public university who were asked about their consumption of energy drinks and their alcohol drinking behaviors within the past 12 months.

The researchers found that individuals who consumed energy drinks at a high frequency were more likely to get drunk at an earlier age, drink more per drinking session, and were more likely to develop alcohol dependence compared to both non-users of energy drinks and the low-frequency users.

Typical Ingredients in Energy Drinks:

Energy drinks generally contain methylxanthines (including caffeine), B vitamins, and herbs. Other commonly used ingredients are carbonated water, guarana, yerba mate, acai, and taurine, plus various forms of ginseng, maltodextrin, inositol, carnitine, creatine, glucuronolactone, and ginkgo biloba. Some contain high levels of sugar, and many brands offer artificially sweetened ‘diet’ versions.

A common ingredient in most energy drinks is caffeine (often in the form of guarana or yerba mate). Energy drinks contain about three times the amount of caffeine as cola

Excess consumption of energy drinks may induce mild to moderate euphoria primarily caused by stimulant properties of caffeine and may also induce agitation, anxiety, irritability and insomnia.

Energy drinks do not provide electrolytes, and can potentially cause a “crash-and-burn” effect as the stimulants wear off.

In addition, caffeine in energy drinks can excrete water from the body resulting in dehydration. These drinks are not appropriate for athletes to use pre and post sporting events.

Healthier Alternatives

Coffee and/or tea are great alternatives for those who want a bit of a boost. In addition, theses beverages offer anti-inflammatory benefits t due to their natural occurring bioflavonoids.

For those looking for an electrolyte replacement, mother nature has provided the answer in coconut water, which tastes great, is low in sugar and high in minerals such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium and  phosphorus.

A healthy balanced diet, adequate sleep and stress management through recreation and exercise are also key factors that can limit the desire for stimulants.

Most of the teenagers and college students I see fall short when it comes to getting a balanced diet and enough sleep.



melia M. Arria, Kimberly M. Caldeira, Sarah J. Kasperski, Kathryn B. Vincent, Roland R. Griffiths, Kevin E. O’Grady. Energy Drink Consumption and Increased Risk for Alcohol Dependence. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2010.

Dr. Lecovin is a chiropractor, naturopathic physician and acupuncturist. He graduated from Los Angeles College of Chiropractic in 1990, earned a Masters in Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport in 1992, and then went on to complete the naturopathic and acupuncture programs at Bastyr University in 1994. He holds additional certifications in exercise from the National Strength and Conditioning Association, National Academy of Sports Medicine and International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Dr. Lecovin specializes in treating musculoskeletal pain and sports injuries by integrating trigger point acupuncture, soft tissue release, joint manipulation, corrective exercise and nutrition.

In addition, he combines exercise and nutrition for weight loss, weight gain , performance enhancement and wellness.

His clinic, located in Bellevue, WA, offers naturopathic medicine, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage and infrared sauna therapy. He can be reached at Evergreen Integrative Medicine at (425) 646-4747 and his website address is


About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin