Dad's decade-long energy drink addiction takes heavy toll
A TEN year addiction to energy drinks has left a Birtinya dad to suffer health consequences and sparked a warning to others.
What started as one-or-two a day after a night out for Michael Clarke, grew into cracking a can of Red Bull or V for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
"I was drinking about two litres of Red Bull a day. That's literally all I was drinking, I wouldn't touch water," he said.
"As soon as I woke up I'd have a Red Bull and before bed I'd have a Red Bull."
Michael admitted he was all too consumed by "what could be" and ignored the warning signs on the cans.
He said if he missed a dose, he'd have severe withdrawals. The worst he suffered was when his stomach swelled up "so much" he couldn't breathe.
"I'd walk five steps and I'd be out of breath because it... pushed up against my diaphragm," he said.
Michael spent weeks in and out of the doctors and emergency only with reflux medication until one day he woke up with severe stomach pains.
He had developed severe gastritis where his stomach was chemically burned.
"For a couple of days I was throwing up and nothing would get rid of the pain," he said.
Now a dad, Michael said it was foolish to consume the amount of energy drinks he did. His body will suffer the consequences for possibly the rest of his life.
"I know at the end of it, it didn't have any effect on keeping me awake, it was just more of a habit," Michael said.
"I still have a lot of problems. I'm ridiculously sensitive to foods and I still constantly have a burning feeling in my stomach.
"If I had stuck to the warnings on the cans, I'd probably be fine."
The formulations of energy drinks can vary between brands. A 369g can of Red Bull contains about 110mg of caffeine and about 37g of sugar.
However, individuals have differing tolerances for caffeine; some can drink about eight coffees a day without any negative effects.
Sippy Downs local Dave Nakon is one of them.
But when it comes to energy drinks, the truckie won't lay a finger on them.
Dave drives for 14 hours a day, four days a week. He relies heavily on caffeine products to get through his working day.
"I've always been a massive coffee drinker," he said. "At one time I was drinking about 12 espressos a day, six of those probably before 9am.
"Caffeine in coffee never really affects me, but energy drinks just make my heart race. I remember one time... I had two small cans of Red Bull on top of my normal coffee and I couldn't even feel my heart it was racing so much."
But he too has pledged his allegiance to never touching a can on V, Red Bull or Mother again.
"At the moment with truck driving I order a special coffee from Sydney called 'killer coffee'," he said.
"Their darkest blend has 10 times of caffeine of normal coffee. So eight of these a day give me a humongous amount of caffeine per day, well above the safe recommended dose but my body seems to handle it OK.
"However if I ever throw a Red Bull or Mother energy drink into the mix I find I get very jittery, nauseous and anxious.
"When I was younger I used to drink Red Bulls and vodka at the nightclubs like everybody else but the hangover from the sugar was a nightmare.
"I've heard plenty of stories about the people whose hearts have stopped after consuming eight cans or so.
"I completely understand this because it speeds up your heart so much.
"I definitely would never ever let my kids drink them."