The image of people in recovery standing outside of twelve step meetings with their coffee, doughnuts, cigarettes is a classic one. Today, the typical refreshments of a recovering addict or alcoholic have changed. Instead of coffee and cigarettes, many in recovery have an energy drink and a vape or an e-cigarette in hand.

Most treatment centers ban the use of energy drinks, either entirely or during specific hours of the day. Commonly, energy drinks are not allowed inside the residential homes or sober livings of treatment programs. Full of caffeine and sugar as well as other chemicals for creating energy, the drinks cause a mind altering affect that many professionals in the field feel is too reminiscent of drugs. Getting a “boost” or a “buzz” from an energy drink is different than drinking a coffee. Many treatment professionals express concern that the use of energy drinks can alter mood or act as a crutch during the treatment process. Energy drink use has never previously been considered a cause for relapse directly. However, the perpetual habit of turning to an external substance for mood alteration, coping, or catching some sort of “high” can be. New research published in Journal of Addiction Medicine found that energy drinks might act as a “gateway” to addiction and/or alcoholism. For those who are in recovery and regularly consuming energy drinks, that makes the already controversial beverages more questionable.

Over one thousand participants were studied for their consumption of energy drinks and the patterns of alcohol abuse in their lives. Researchers from University of Maryland who conducted the study found that over 50% of the participants had a consistent pattern of consuming energy drinks. These participants were at higher risk for abusing cocaine, prescription stimulants, and alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant substance, but creates intense experiences of euphoria. Cocaine is a stimulant as are many prescription medications which might be used as a treatment for disorders like ADHD. Caffeine is a stimulant substance. The high amount of caffeine in energy drinks easily sets up the brain to crave more stimulating substances that would provide a stronger sensation of stimulation.


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