Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health found energy drink consumption among teenagers and students was strongly linked to heavy drinking and alcohol dependence.
They called for more scrutiny of the possible negative health effects of these drinks.
Students often use the drinks to stay awake longer and mix them with alcohol, the researchers said.
In the study, over 1,000 university students were asked about their consumption of energy drinks and alcohol in the past 12 months. Those who reported high consumption of energy drinks - more than 52 a year - were more likely to get drunk at an earlier age.
This group drank more in each drinking session and were more likely to develop alcohol dependence.
Research scientist Kathleen Miller from the Research Institute on Addictions, University at Buffalo, said more research was needed to identify why young people mixed alcohol and energy drinks.
- Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research Online 2010