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Are Energy Drinks a Gateway Drug?

I recently had occasion to meet one of the major marketing people for perhaps the best-known energy drink. More caffeine than about 10 cups of coffee in one little can. She confessed to having been wired on this stuff – but said she’s now down to about 6 cans a day. I don’t know the stats on her drink specifically but, for some of them, that’s the equivalent of about 64 cans of coke. A day. What are the possibilities of this leading to taking drugs?

Caffeine is addictive, although it doesn’t produce anywhere near the serious side effects of drugs when you try to get off it, but I wonder how many people who drink energy drinks in these amounts wind up getting into drugs. When you’ve had that much false energy pumped into your body, you’ve got to feel drained and lifeless when you stop drinking it – which opens the door to saying yes to a little ‘pick-me-up’ offered by a friend. A pick-me-up that might include methamphetamine, cocaine, or one of the many meth-type prescription drugs that help keep you awake.

According to some research, energy drinks might well be gateway drugs. Roland Griffiths, one of the authors of a Johns Hopkins Medical Institution study on caffeine intoxication, said there is evidence that energy drinks are gateway drugs. He suggested that the drinks should have FDA warning labels – not about the gateway drug end of things, but about the possibility of caffeine intoxication.

One of the commenters laughed at this – said if the FDA was going to put warnings on energy drinks they should also put warnings on Coca Cola, pointing out that the name came from COKE – i.e. cocaine. But it hasn’t contained cocaine since 1929, so no need for the FDA to do that. I hope the commenter isn’t disappointed to find that out.

Personally, I would see a kid drinking a lot of energy drinks as a warning sign. Either there’s something physically wrong with the person – so they need energy desperately – or they’re wired. Or they’re just stupid. In which case, I’d definitely be worried since there’s a much better chance of them saying yes to an offer of a little pill that will create the same effect. Maybe someone will give them a Ritalin or Adderall. Especially if it’s a college kid trying to stay awake or using ‘study drugs’ (speed) to focus.

When a person does one thing that’s harmful to their body, they’re more likely to do another. And it could get them in a lot of trouble. Including the eventually need for addiction help.

My advice? Check into it. 

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