Belfast Telegraph

Energy drink addiction reduced me to five stone, says Newry teen

James McCann now
James McCann now
James McCann with his dad Nigel, mum Alison and sister Nicole
James at his lowest weight

By Eimear McGovern

A teenager from Newry has said he wants to warn other young people of the danger of energy drinks after his weight plummeted and he spent a month in and out of hospital.

James McCann (19) said he was at his lowest point when he was admitted to hospital in late November 2017 weighing just five stone and seven pounds after substituting meals for four energy drinks a day.

He was diagnosed with gastritis, caused by inflammation of the lining of the stomach. The hospital told him it was caused by the drinks.

"I would wake up in the middle of the night and I would curl up in a ball to try and stop the cramps. I would lie there crying, it was so bad."

James said he started buying energy drinks when he started attending St Joseph's Boys' High School.

"My grandparents gave me a few pounds now and then. I bought sweets but I preferred a drink because you can carry it with you all day," he said.

The drinks would typically cost around £1 - but James said he saw drinks being sold that were as little as 30p or 35p.

"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."

James was juggling a 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 had to go back several times in December - at one point thinking he wouldn't get home for Christmas.

"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 drink.

"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."

James wants to warn other young people of the dangers of energy drinks. He's visited his old school to speak to pupils there.

"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."

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