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Energy Drinks Tied to Depression, Drug Use in Teens

Update Date: Mar 07, 2014 05:57 PM EST
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Consumption of energy drinks has been linked to poor mental health and drug use among teenagers, according to a new study.

Researchers said the latest findings suggest that there should be rules limiting teen's access to energy drinks and caffeine concentration in each can.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo and Dalhousie University found that high school students who were prone to depression and those who smoke marijuana or drink alcohol are significantly more likely to drink energy drinks than other students

"While it remains unclear why these associations exist, the trend is a concern because of the high rate of consumption among teenagers," lead researcher Sunday Azagba, a researcher at the Propel Center for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo, said in a news release.  "These drinks appeal to young people because of their temporary benefits like increased alertness, improved mood and enhanced mental and physical energy."

The study involved 8,210 high school students. The findings revealed that nearly two thirds of them said they drank energy drinks at least once in the past year, with a fifth consuming them once or more per month. The study also revealed that younger high school students were also more likely than older high school students to consume energy drinks.

"Marketing campaigns appear designed to entice youth and young adults," said Azagba. "It's a dangerous combination, especially for those at an increased risk for substance abuse."

Previous studies have linked energy drinks that contain high concentrations of caffeine to cardiovascular symptoms, sleep impairment, nervousness and nausea.

"Given the negative effects of excessive caffeine consumption as well as the coincident occurrence of the use of energy drinks and other negative behaviors in teens, the trends we are seeing are more than cause for concern," said Azagba.

"In our opinion, at the very least steps should be taken to limit teens' access to energy drinks, to increase public awareness and education about the potential harms of these drinks and to minimize the amount of caffeine available in each unit," said Azagba. "This won't eliminate the problem entirely, but steps like these can help mitigate harm to our youth that appears to be associated with consumption of these drinks. This is something we need to take seriously. Change won't happen without a concerted effort."

The findings are published in the journal Preventive Medicine.

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