Energy Drink Prohibition Might Be Next for Gateway Drug Theorists

By David Jenison on May 2, 2019

The gateway drug theory exists on one of the bottom rungs in the propaganda war against cannabis, but many knuckle draggers continue to espouse the theory as a justification for prohibition. Well, if the proposed gateway justifies prohibiting cannabis, the same fate should await energy drinks as the first step on the way to smack and speedballs.

Last year, PRØHBTD highlighted the Preventive Medicine study that claimed, “Energy drink consumption is significantly associated with increased soft drug use, which is, in turn, associated with significant increases in hard drug use.” This year, an Addictive Behaviors study doubled down on the assertion that Red Bull leads to green bowls.

Texas-based researchers utilized the Monitoring the Future survey (i.e., the same annual survey that said legalization did not increase teen use) to track substance use among 8th and 10th graders in different states across seven years of data. Their findings suggest the following: “Energy drink consumers are significantly more likely to intend to initiate marijuana use relative to non-consumers of energy drinks…. Additionally, evidence suggests that the relationship between energy drink consumption and the intention to use marijuana is moderated by use of other substances.”

Moreover, other studies suggest energy drinks can seriously harm your liver, have "similar effects to cocaine" and can potentially kill you. This 2019 study even highlights the risks of combining energy drinks and samba dancing (seriously). In other words, energy drinks are both the true gateway drug and more dangerous than cannabis. For those who embrace the gateway drug theory, the finding that “energy drink consumption may be one early precursor in the escalation of substance use” suggests there’s a stronger case for prohibiting energy drinks than cannabis. 

But why would the gateway drug theorists stop there? This 2018 study found that teenage sexting is also a gateway to drug abuse, while other studies identified nicotine, alcohol and coffee as gateway drugs.

Offering another take on the theory, Addiction Research published a study called “Gateway to Nowhere” that argued the following: “The gateway theory may actually be counterproductive if we consider that in non-temperance cultures that manage alcohol successfully, alcohol is generally introduced to young people at an early age. Other evidence suggests that moderate drinking and drug-using young people, even when such behavior is illegal, are better off psychologically and are more likely to make a successful transition to adulthood than abstainers.”

Rather than looking at substance-related gateways, the researcher argued that the best predictors of future substance abuse are “social, family, and psychological depredations that occur independent of supposed gateway linkages.”

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