Man Killed Himself after Battling an Energy Drink Addiction – Now His Father wants Them Banned
When his marriage broke down after just three months, Justin Bartholomew turned to energy drinks.
Battling depression, the 25-year-old relied on the caffeine hit they gave him to get through the day.
But that spiralled into addiction and led to the scaffolder taking his own life, his dad believes.
Dad Keiron, 68, says his son’s craving for the drinks, including Red Bull, turned him into “a zombie”.
“It was as powerful an addiction as crack for him, which was horrible to see,” Keiron told Fab Daily.
“I worked with Justin scaffolding and me and all the boys would tell him he had to cut back. But he said he couldn’t.”
A report in the British Medical Journal shows one in three children consumes at least one energy drink a week, though the average can contain the same amount of caffeine as a shot of espresso.
The sugar-heavy products have been linked to a host of unpleasant side-effects, ranging from increased blood pressure to disturbed sleep, headaches and stomach pains.
And there are fears this could be just the tip of the iceberg.
‘Thousands throwing their lives away’
Fab Daily heard from one man who suffered a heart attack and was told energy drinks could be to blame, while a mother of three who drank 15 LITRES of Lucozade a day admits her cravings left her “as addicted as to any drug”.
The warning comes as the Government plans to ban sales of energy drinks to the under-16s.
Keiron, a semi-retired scaffolder, told Fab Daily his son would turn up at work with carrier bags full of energy drinks, while empty cans in his van’s footwell left it looking like a recycling bin.
Keiron, from Peacehaven, East Sussex, said: “He was severely depressed and felt he needed the drinks to keep him going.
“But it became a vicious cycle of needing more and more to get through the day. He was getting less and less sleep, which made the depression worse.
“I believe Justin’s normal coping mechanisms weren’t in place because of his energy drink addiction.”
From May 2016, Justin was under the care of a mental health crisis team.
But his addiction worsened and he would arrive at work with the drinks every day.
He started experiencing heart palpitations and sleepless nights.
Keiron adds: “He became like a zombie.”
Justin died on August 1, 2017.
Keiron said: “It was the worst day of my life. Justin had been screaming out for help but we couldn’t get through to him because of the energy drinks.” Keiron believes the products should be banned completely.
He was severely depressed and felt he needed the drinks to keep him going. But it became a vicious cycle of needing more and more to get through the day. He was getting less and less sleep, which made the depression worse. I believe Justin’s normal coping mechanisms weren’t in place because of his energy drink addiction.Keiron Bartholomew on son Justin
He said: “There are tens of thousands of adults who are addicted and throwing their lives away.”
The Government ran a consultation on banning the sales of energy drinks to under-16s in 2018 but decided there was not enough data to justify changing the law.
However, most supermarkets and High Street chemist Boots brought in voluntary bans prohibiting children from buying drinks containing more than 150mg caffeine per litre.
A study commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care suggests frequent consumption — classed as five or more times a week — could be linked to poorer mental and physical health and worse academic performance.
York University researchers warned in a new BMJ Open study that frequent consumption also raises the likelihood of school exclusion, boozing and smoking.
The DHSC told Fab Daily a plan to end the sale of energy drinks to under-16s will be set out “in due course”.
Last year, a BMJ report revealed a 21-year-old student suffered heart failure and spent 58 days in hospital after downing two litres of energy drinks every day for two years.
Similarly, pub landlord Lee Kamen suffered a heart attack in 2017 at the age of 49, which he puts down to drinking four cans a day of the energy drink Monster.
Lee, who owns the Vault bar in Witham, Hull, said: “I was working flat-out doing up the pub and would drink at least four cans a day to keep me going.
“After about a year, I collapsed with a heart attack, despite being teetotal and never having smoked. The doctor said my energy drink intake was probably the cause. I didn’t have a clue there was anything wrong with drinking them until then.”
I was working flat-out doing up the pub and would drink at least four cans a day to keep me going. After about a year, I collapsed with a heart attack, despite being teetotal and never having smoked.Lee Kamen
Lee, who had a stent fitted and will be on medication for the rest of his life, was then horrified when his 11-year-old daughter Summer bought a can of Monster on the way home from school last year.
He said: “Straight away, I told her to pour it down the drain.”
He has since convinced Summer’s school to educate its pupils about energy drinks.
Lee added: “These drinks are packed with sugar and caffeine. I was very fit and healthy — and look what it did to me.”
Mum Kayleigh Judge, 36, believes her Lucozade addiction has left her with chronic high blood pressure.
She has banned her sons, Tyler, 16, and Lee, 14, from having drinks such as Red Bull and Monster in the house.
The restaurateur, from Moray in Scotland, says: “Often, I’d pick up six 500ml bottles on the way to work, then six more at lunchtime and six more on the way home.
“Then I’d work my way through six one-litre bottles in the evening — totalling 15 litres in 24 hours.”
Kayleigh became hooked on Lucozade when her first marriage was ending in her late twenties.
She said: “It was a way of coping with all the stress. If I didn’t get my fix, I became a truly nasty person.”
Often, I’d pick up six 500ml bottles on the way to work, then six more at lunchtime and six more on the way home. Then I’d work my way through six one-litre bottles in the evening — totalling 15 litres in 24 hours.Kayleigh Judge
At 30, she went “cold turkey” after being diagnosed with chronic high blood pressure and put on medication. Energy drinks typically contain 32mg caffeine per 100ml, roughly the same amount as a cup of filter coffee. Lucozade Energy has around 12mg per 100ml.
Now Kayleigh is calling for a total ban on all energy drinks. She said: “I won’t stock them in my restaurant or let my sons have them in the house. We have so many arguments because they see energy drinks as cool.
“I don’t see why these drinks exist. They’re hugely harmful and I wish I’d never started on them.”
Dietitian Rebecca McManamon, a spokesman for the British Dietetic Association, said: “Increased caffeine consumption in children and adolescents results in increased blood pressure, poor sleep, headaches, stomach pains and diarrhoea.
“Consumption of energy drinks can affect a young person’s mental health and lead to poor diet — but also significantly impact sleep while the brain is still developing, with reduced sleep being further linked to risk of weight gain.”
EU regulations state all energy drinks with a caffeine content of more than 150mg per litre must be labelled “not recommended for children”.
Gavin Partington, of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: “We remain committed to supporting the responsible sale of energy drinks.”
The Sun has contacted Lucozade, Red Bull and Monster last week for comment.
Red Bull referred us to Energy Drinks Europe’s research by the European Food Safety Authority including that “the general population of healthy adults is not exposed to any health risk from caffeine if the daily consumption is limited to 400mg.”
Are you at risk?
IT can be hard to know when energy drinks have become a problem, instead of enjoying them as part of a balanced diet.
Moderate caffeine intake is around 400mg a day.
A 250ml can of Red Bull contains 80mg, about the same as a cup of coffee.
Experts at UK Rehab say signs of addiction include:
- Drinking a lot in a short space of time
- Developing a tolerance and needing to drink more to get the same ‘hit’
- Relying on them to get through the day
- Disturbed sleep
- Anxiety and depression
- Muscle twitching and difficulty concentrating
- Stomach aches and acid reflux
- Feeling irritable
- Brain fog
- Fatigue and lack of energy