Apart from alcohol, beverages are not something commonly associated with addiction. However, the recent surge in energy drinks has led to a number of people developing addictions that are having a devastating impact on their lives. Energy drink addiction is a growing problem and one that is resulting in a host of health problems for those affected.
Those who drink large quantities of energy drinks are becoming dependent on one of the key ingredients – caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and just a small amount every day can result in a person developing an addiction. As a person drinks more and more energy drinks, they will find that they are not getting the same stimulant effects as before. The affected individual will need to drink more to achieve the desired effect; when this happens, he or she is in danger of developing an addiction.
Kicking the Habit
A woman from Devon has admitted to drinking twenty cans of Red Bull every day to feed her energy drink addiction. The result of this excessive consumption was an enlarged liver – it was twice the size of a healthy liver!
Mary Allwood’s addiction meant she was consuming the amount of caffeine found in seventeen cups of coffee every day, as well as the same amount of sugar found in sixteen Mars bars through energy drinks. Doctors actually mistook her liver for that of an alcoholic due to the damage the excessive energy drink consumption had caused.
It was only when Ms Allwood was taken into hospital with severe pains that an MRI scan revealed how severely damaged her liver was. At this point, she was forced to look at her habit. She admitted that she had been spending almost £2,300 every year on energy drinks and that she would stash them all around her house.
After the shock of finding out how badly damaged her liver was, she decided to quit drinking Red Bull and after five months, a scan revealed her liver to be a normal size again.
Ms Allwood admits to being physically dependent on Red Bull, and 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.”
She said that she felt awful when she did not get the drink and although it gave her energy in the early days, after a while it was not providing the energy she required. Nevertheless, at this stage, she could not stop. She likened it to her ‘heroin’.
Nonetheless, now that she is in recovery from an energy drink addiction, she is worried that others could be affected because of how easy it is to buy these drinks in shops. She said, “I think it should be treated as if it is alcohol and cigarettes.”
Ms Allwood said she began drinking energy drinks when she was twenty-two in the hopes they would give her more energy. And while this did work in the beginning, it was not long before her body became tolerant to the effects of the caffeine. She then started drinking more and more cans until she was consuming twenty every day. She said she would drink two cans as soon as she woke up and then continue to drink it throughout the day. She said, “I’d drink the first one in three sips, and then try and make the second one last longer. I would go to the supermarket and get 10 multipacks at a time. I’d tell the person at the till that I had a restaurant and was buying them for that reason.”
As well as damaging her liver, her addiction saw her weight balloon, and she went from a dress size 16 to a 24. Since she quit energy drinks, her weight is back to normal.
When she decided to go cold turkey, she swapped energy drinks for water but said she began experiencing withdrawal symptoms, which included mood swings and the shakes. She added, “It was really hard, and there were times when I bought one, opened it, but I never drank it. I tried a drop on my tongue, and it tasted like pure sugar. I’ll never go back to how I was now. Now I think the rules should be changed, and it should be treated in a similar way to cigarettes, with the blank packaging.”
The Dangers of an Energy Drink Addiction
Those who have developed an energy drink addiction will quickly notice withdrawal symptoms when they do not have their usual dose of caffeine. They may start to feel sleepy and suffer from headaches. It does not take the body long to build up a tolerance to caffeine but when that caffeine dose is missed for a certain period of time, the individual will feel drowsy, have difficulty concentrating, and will be less alert. This is the reason those affected will begin consuming energy drinks in larger quantities, which obviously has significant health risks.
Another issue for those with an energy drink addiction is that they may be tempted to mix these drinks with alcohol. Because alcohol is a suppressant and the caffeine in energy drinks is a stimulant, the two offset each other and drinkers tend to not realise they are drunk. This means they will drink more and are then at higher risk of becoming involved in risky behaviour because their judgement is impaired.
Source: The Telegraph