Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Newry teenager warns against overuse of energy drinks

A Newry teenager who required weeks of hospital treatment because of his addiction to energy drinks has taken the brave step of sharing his story to warn other young people of the dangers.

James McCann (19) was admitted to hospital in November 2017 weighing less than five and a half stone as a result of substituting daily meals for energy drinks. 

Having been diagnosed with gastritis caused by inflammation of the lining of the stomach, he spent a month in and out of hospital where doctors told him his condition was caused by his high consumption of energy drinks.

James said he began buying energy drinks when he started attending St Joseph’s Boys’ High School in Newry.

“I was drinking one or two a day but it got worse as the years went on – especially when I earned money and no one could tell me what to spend it on,” he explained. 

After leaving school, he juggled a part-time job with his college course at Southern Regional College and stopped eating meals as a result. 

“I was in a rush to get out the door every morning so I wouldn’t have breakfast. I could get a drink in a shop or in the canteen in college. When I started losing weight I wasn’t worried but my parents were concerned.

“About three months after I started college I started getting stomach pains. I didn’t connect it all together straight away but my mum did,” he said.

He stayed in hospital for a week at first and was re-admitted several times during December.

“I was in for a week and had to be off work for two months. On Boxing Day I was so bad I had to go back into hospital.”

James was told by the hospital to drink special drinks to help him put on weight which, at seven stone currently, he still has to take.

“I missed the energy drinks for about two months before I asked myself what’s the point – now I haven’t touched one in two years,” he said.

Keen to warn other young people about the dangers of energy drinks, James has visited his former school to speak to pupils.

“I want to shock young people into knowing that the danger is real and it’s not a joke – not to go down the path I did.  It’s tempting when you feel like you have a lot of stuff to get done, to feel like it’s right to skip meals. But now even if I’m late, as long as I get something to eat, that’s the most important thing.”