Most people would not think of energy drinks as being addictive, after all, they are available in every shop, there’s no age limit attached to them, and they’re just fizzy drinks. Aren’t they? But for one mother from Devon, energy drink addiction led to her being admitted to hospital in severe pain.

Addiction to Energy Drinks

Mary Allwood first tried energy drinks when she was twenty-two because she wanted to boost her energy levels – a common reason for consuming these drinks. Initially, this worked, but she soon found herself needing to drink more until she was drinking twenty cans of energy drink a day. Her first can would be opened as soon as she got up in the morning, quickly followed by another, and she would buy multipacks of the drinks when she went shopping, telling cashiers that she had a restaurant, to avoid questions.

Speaking about her addiction, Ms Allwood said, “I needed it, and I didn’t care at the time what damage it was doing to me. If I didn’t get my fix, I would be miserable and grumpy, and it just wasn’t an option – I would make sure I got it.” Allwood also noted that while initially the drinks made her feel as though she had more energy, this feeling soon stopped, increasing the urge for more of the drinks.

Energy Drink Addiction Led to Massive Sugar Overload

The twenty-six-year-old mother, from Brixham in Devon, was drinking around twenty cans of the energy drink, Red Bull, every day. That’s 220 grammes of sugar or the equivalent of eating fifty-five sugar cubes! The recommended maximum daily intake of sugar is thirty grammes.

In addition to the sugar overload her liver was experiencing, she was also consuming massive levels of caffeine – 1600mg, or the equivalent of more than twenty-five espresso coffees. The general advice given is that around 400mg of caffeine per day is safe, so Ms Allwood was consuming four times the recommended safe level. Caffeine produces feelings of alertness, so it can make you feel less tired – hence its addition to energy drinks, but it can also cause headaches, increase blood pressure, worsen anxiety disorders and insomnia, and contribute to osteoporosis (bone thinning). Withdrawal symptoms from caffeine include anxiety, irritability and drowsiness, and possibly muscle aches.

Liver Twice its Normal Size

About a year after her energy drink addiction began, Allwood suffered heart palpitations – a common effect of overdosing on caffeine. Unfortunately, this didn’t curb her habit, but in November 2015 she was rushed to hospital with severe abdominal pains. An MRI scan was ordered, showing that her liver was twice the normal size as well as containing two fibrous lumps. The damage to her liver was so bad that doctors thought she was an alcoholic until she admitted her energy drink addiction to them.

The liver damage appeared similar to that seen in chronic alcoholics, but in this instance was caused by the excessive amounts of sugar she was consuming. Sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream and then carried to the liver, where it is stored for later use. Excessive consumption of sugar can lead to a build-up in the liver, where it can cause inflammation, scarring and lumps – like those seen in Ms Allwood’s scan.

A Wake-Up Call

This scare was the catalyst Allwood needed to change her habits. Despite suffering from withdrawal symptoms that included tremors and mood swings, she has stopped drinking energy drinks altogether. As a result, she has lost weight – going from a size 24 back to the size 16 she was before her energy drink addiction, and she now no longer experiences cravings for the drinks. She now feels that energy drinks should be regarded in a similar light to cigarettes and tobacco, with plain packaging and an age limit – given the frequent consumption of these drinks by children, others have suggested this as well.

Help Is Available for Energy Drink Addiction

If you feel that you, or someone you care for, is struggling with an addiction to energy drinks, Addiction Helper can help you to find the treatment required to beat the illness. If you would like any help or advice, then please contact us today so that we can help you to start your journey to recovery.

Source: Red Bull addict who drank 20 cans a day had liver so damaged doctors thought she was an alcoholic (The Telegraph)