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Caffeinate carefully.

Melissa Locker
August 11, 2017

Step away from the Red Bull! A new study reveals that the humble energy drink you pick up at the corner store for an afternoon pick-me-up may be the gateway to cocaine use. Really.

The study looked at a group of 1,099 young adults, between the ages of 21 and 25, and discovered that those who drank large amounts of energy drinks were at risk of drug and alcohol abuse. Over the course of the five-year study, the team, lead by Dr. Amelia Arria at the University of Maryland, found people who regularly chugged those highly-caffeinated energy drinks were “significantly more likely to use cocaine,” according to a statement. High energy drink consumption was not only an indicator of future amphetamine and stimulant use. People who regularly drank energy drinks were also at a greater risk of alcohol abuse within five years.

The researchers found that while most of the young adults slowed their consumption of energy drinks over the course of the five-year study (read: graduated from college cram sessions), more than half (51.4%) of the 1,099 participants fell into the group with a “persistent trajectory,” meaning that they still kept up a steady diet of energy drinks. That factor is what put them at increased risk for alcohol and drug use by age 25, the study claims. Interestingly, the researchers found no correlation between energy drink use and marijuana consumption.

While studies like this should always be closely scrutinized, this particular study took into account other factors related to a risk of substance use and still found that energy drink consumption was a contributing factor. “This study gives evidence of a specific contribution of energy drink consumption to later substance use,” said Dr. Arria in a statement. The findings were published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

While Dr. Arria and her team focused on young adults, she hopes future research will look at adolescents. “We know that they too are regularly consuming energy drinks,” said Dr. Arria. “We want to know whether or not adolescents are similarly at risk for future substance use.”

There’s probably a lot of parents wondering the same thing.