Caffeine Addiction Predicts Cocaine Abuse
Caffeinated soft drinks are all the rage among young people, but as researchers find out more about the risks associated with the drinks, parents may want to take notice. Some previous research has found that the popular trend of mixing the drinks with alcohol can result in higher levels of binge drinking.
Now, a research team from the University of Vermont has found that caffeine use through the drinking of high-calorie energy drinks or soda may also predict a person’s reaction to exposure to cocaine.
The study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence was led by Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D. Sigmon is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont’s College of Medicine, whose work has focused on the effect of caffeine, including withdrawal and the relationship between such stimulants and cigarette smoking.
The team found that in their placebo-controlled, double-blind trial that a subject’s reaction to a dose of caffeine may offer a prediction of how they will react to a stimulant drug such as cocaine, which may give information about their risk of abusing that drug. Sigmon explains that there is a wide range in individuals’ response to a drug, with an individual dose resulting in effects that repulse one person and provide a pleasant experience for another.
Those types of different effects may help in understanding who might be at risk for a possible drug problem. In order to test the effects, Sigmon and Roland Griffiths, Ph.D, coauthor, from Johns Hopkins University looked at how subjects with a variation of responses to caffeine react to doses of d-amphetamine, which is classified as a psychomotor stimulant. The effects of d-amphetamine are similar to those found in other stimulants like cocaine.
The researchers found that when given a choice between caffeine and a placebo, those who picked caffeine reported a significantly higher level of positive subjective effects and fewer unpleasant effects in response to d-amphetamine. Those who chose the non-caffeine placebo reported the opposite effects in response to d-amphetamine.
Sigmon and Griffiths report that their research is unique in showing that caffeine consumption reinforcement can predict the subjective reaction to the use of another stimulant drug. Sigmon says that though the results do not translate to every coffee drinker being at a elevated risk for cocaine addiction, it does indicate that individuals have a specific reaction to stimulants and their reaction to one type may predict how they will respond to another stimulant.
The study, in which research included 22 individuals, was conducted over a period of approximately three months and was funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.