BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Frequent use of energy drinks is associated
with binge drinking, alcohol-related social problems and misuse of
prescription drugs among musicians, according to researchers at the
University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions.
In survey results published in the Journal of Caffeine Research
this spring, UB research scientists Kathleen E. Miller and Brian M.
Quigley examined substance use by 226 Western New York professional
and amateur musicians aged 18-45. In the sample, 94 percent were
caffeine users and 57 percent reported use of energy drinks
Sixty-eight percent of the musicians surveyed reported heavy
binge drinking at least once or twice a year and 74 percent
reported experiencing at least one alcohol-related social problem,
such as hangovers, arguing with others about their drinking, or
doing something while drinking that they later regretted. Most of
those surveyed also reported recreational drug use, including
prescription drugs (23 percent), marijuana (52 percent),
psychedelic drugs (25 percent), or cocaine (21 percent).
Musicians who used energy drinks reported significantly more
misuse of legal substances than those who did not use energy
drinks. For example, 31 percent of energy drink users misused
prescription drugs (compared to 13 percent of nonusers) and 76
percent reported binge drinking (compared to 59 percent of
Consistent with previous studies of athletes and college
students, this study suggests that the unique relationships between
energy drink consumption and other substance use represent more
than merely a repackaging of the U.S. public's longstanding love
affairs with coffee and soft drinks. "No question, we've got quite
a caffeine habit," observes Miller. "But energy drinks bring
something more to the equation."
Manufacturers of popular energy drink brands appear to target
actual or aspiring musicians as a niche market for their products.
Rockstar, the second most popular energy drink in the U.S. today,
evokes music in its name, sponsors music tours and features
selected artists on its website. Loud Energy Drink or Rock On
incorporate music-related logos and concert sponsorships. Pimp
Juice and Crunk!!! are energy drink brands owned and marketed by
individual rap artists.
With names like Monster, Daredevil and Havoc, edgy energy drink
marketers consistently use brand naming, packaging, and advertising
messages to tie the products to themes of rebellion, risk taking,
and even illegal drug use, Miller points out. This may help to
explain the unique associations between substance misuse and energy
drinks but not other caffeinated beverages, she suggests. It may
also give energy drinks a special appeal for musicians, who tend to
score high on the personality trait of sensation-seeking.
Given the unconventional lifestyles often associated with paid
musicianship -- such as late or irregular hours and periodic sleep
deprivation -- it is likely, Miller says, that professional
musicians constitute an especially fertile demographic for energy
drinks, which derive their pharmacological impact primarily from
Caffeine in low or moderate doses is a common feature of most
U.S. diets. However, because they are classed as dietary
supplements and therefore not subject to FDA regulation like other
caffeine products, energy drinks constitute a greater than average
risk for caffeine intoxication, a recognized clinical syndrome
associated with higher than average doses. High levels of caffeine
use have been linked to adverse health effects ranging from
anxiety, irritability and insomnia to high blood pressure, cardiac
arrhythmias, seizures and even death, in rare cases.
In the current study, most participants were male (60 percent)
and non-Hispanic white (72 percent), with an average age of 28.
Approximately one-fourth had a high school diploma or less,
one-fourth had attended some college, 22 percent had a bachelors or
postgraduate degree and the remaining 29 percent were currently in
school. Thirty-six percent were employed full-time or part-time as
In addition to her research position at RIA, Miller is an
adjunct research assistant professor in the UB Department of
The Research Institute on Addictions has been a leader in the
study of addictions since 1970 and a research center of the
University at Buffalo since 1999.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus.
UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests
through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional
degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a
member of the Association of American Universities.