The use of energy drinks, dietary supplements, and prescription medications by United States college students to enhance athletic performance

J Community Health. 2013 Jun;38(3):575-80. doi: 10.1007/s10900-013-9653-5.


While the use of performance enhancing substances by professional, collegiate, and Olympic athletes is well described, the rate of use in the general population is not well studied. We explored the use of energy drinks, dietary supplements, and prescription medications for the enhancement of athletic performance among college students using an ongoing survey system. We conducted a multi-round online questionnaire collecting data from self-identified students at two-year colleges, four-year colleges, online courses, or technical schools at least part-time during the specified sampling period. The sample is obtained through the use of a survey panel company in which respondents voluntarily register. Survey data were collected from December, 2010 through August, 2011. Subjects who reported participating in athletics were asked if they used any of the following substances to enhance athletic performance (1) energy drinks (2) dietary supplements (3) prescription medications within the last year. Data were analyzed from October, 2011 through January, 2012. There were 462 college students who responded to the survey reporting they participate in sports at various levels. Of these, 397 (85.9 %) responded that within the last year they used energy drinks, dietary supplements, or prescription medications to enhance athletic performance. Energy drinks had the highest prevalence (80.1 %), followed by dietary supplements (64.1 %) and prescription medications (53.3 %). Use was most prevalent amongst intercollegiate athletes (89.4 %) followed by club (88.5 %) and intermural (82.1 %) participants. The vast majority of survey respondents reported using energy drinks, dietary supplements, and prescription medications within the last year for athletic performance enhancement.

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Performance
  • Data Collection
  • Diet Surveys / statistics & numerical data*
  • Energy Drinks / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / therapeutic use*
  • Prescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sports / statistics & numerical data
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Universities / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult


  • Performance-Enhancing Substances
  • Prescription Drugs