Study suggests caffeine lovers might be at risk for cocaine, amphetamine abuse

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Results of an investigation suggests people who love coffee, energy drinks or other caffeine beverages may be at high risk for abusing drugs like cocaine and amphetamines. In a small study, investigators found people who respond favorably to caffeine also enjoyed the effects of amphetamine, especially high doses.

Researchers aren't saying everyone who enjoys caffeine will abuse cocaine. Rather, the results suggest a vulnerability to the stimulating effects of cocaine or amphetamine.

The new finding is published in the November issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the University Of Vermont College of Medicine says everyone responds differently to drugs. People who respond favorably to the effects of caffeine might be more vulnerable to the effect of stimulants.

“People differ dramatically in how they respond to drugs,” says Sigmon. “For example, a single dose of a drug can produce completely opposite effects in two people, with one absolutely loving and the other hating the drug’s effects. It is important to improve our understanding of these differences, as they may reflect key individual differences in vulnerability or resilience for drug abuse.”


Sigmon and coauthor Roland Griffiths, Ph.D, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine studied 22 people that they classified as “Choosers” (of caffeine) and “Nonchoosers”. The “Choosers” picked caffeine instead of placebo 7 out of ten times, while “Nonchoosers” did exactly the opposite.

Coffee choosers enjoy effects of amphetamine

In a second phase of the study, the participants were given different doses of d-amphetamine and then asked to rate how much they liked the stimulant.

When the researchers compared people who chose caffeine to the participants who did not, they also found caffeine lovers liked the effect of d-amphetamine, especially in higher doses. “Nonchoosers” reported they found amphetamine unpleasant.

The researchers concluded the way people respond to caffeine might predict risk for cocaine and amphetamine abuse. In the study, They say more studies are needed to clarify the finding.

Drug and Alcohol Dependence: doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.04.018
“Caffeine choice prospectively predicts positive subjective effects of caffeine and d-amphetamine”
Stacey C. Sigmon, Roland R. Griffiths

Image credit: Morguefile