Background: Recent research has identified the use of caffeinated energy drinks as a common, potentially risky behavior among college students that is linked to alcohol misuse and consequences. Research also suggests that energy drink consumption is related to other risky behaviors such as tobacco use, marijuana use and risky sexual activity.
Objective: This research sought to examine the associations between frequency of energy drink consumption and problematic alcohol use, alcohol-related consequences, symptoms of alcohol dependence and drinking motives in an ethnically diverse sample of college students in Alaska. We also sought to examine whether ethnic group moderated these associations in the present sample of White, Alaska Native/American Indian and other ethnic minority college students.
Design: A paper-and-pencil self-report questionnaire was completed by a sample of 298 college students. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was used to examine the effects of energy drink use, ethnic group and energy drink by ethnic group interactions on alcohol outcomes after controlling for variance attributed to gender, age and frequency of binge drinking.
Results: Greater energy drink consumption was significantly associated with greater hazardous drinking, alcohol consequences, alcohol dependence symptoms, drinking for enhancement motives and drinking to cope. There were no main effects of ethnic group, and there were no significant energy drink by ethnic group interactions.
Conclusion: These findings replicate those of other studies examining the associations between energy drink use and alcohol problems, but contrary to previous research we did not find ethnic minority status to be protective. It is possible that energy drink consumption may serve as a marker for other health risk behaviors among students of various ethnic groups.
Keywords: alcohol problems; caffeine; drinking to cope.