The father of a man who was drinking 15 cans of energy drink a day has spoken of his heartbreak after his son committed suicide.
In the weeks leading up to his tragic death, Justin Bartholomew, from Newhaven, East Sussex, was consuming vast quantities of the high-caffeine and sugary drinks, something which his father Keiron believes played a huge role in his death.
Mr Bartholomew, 64, said:
‘He was drinking 15 cans a day and that was just the ones we could see he was drinking.
‘I said to him, “You’ve got to wean yourself off these”.
‘He just said, “Dad, I can’t stop drinking them, I’ve tried. I can’t just stop. It’s like trying to stop smoking, I just can’t”.
My son was addicted to them.’
One can of an energy drink can contain as much as 160mg of caffeine, more than a double espresso and as many as 14 teaspoons of sugar.
The concoction, combined with depression, is what Mr Bartholomew believes led to Justin’s suicide in August last year.
The 25-year-old’s tragic demise was mentioned in Parliament by his MP Maria Caulfield this week as there are mounting calls to restrict the sales of the drinks to under 16s.
‘Justin’s family are convinced that the high-energy drinks he was taking, over 15 cans a day, increased his anxiety and contributed to his suicide.’
His father told the Mirror:
‘My son was drinking energy drinks, which accelerated his depression. It’s a double-edged sword – energy drinks are bad for you because of the sugar and the caffeine.
But, also, if you are drinking these drinks and you have depression, it is a lethal combination. I also believe that a total ban should also be considered.’
Justin slipped into depression after splitting from his wife. The pair were married for three months but following the break-up, he tried several times to take his own life.
His father described him as a ‘sensitive lad‘ who was devastated by the break-up. It was at the time of his first wedding anniversary, in May 2016, when Justin was hospitalised and his energy drink consumption ‘rocketed’.
Mr Bartholomew said:
‘He was coming to work with a can of energy drink – cheap ones for about 35p a can.
‘To get value for money, he’d come in with bag-fulls of these drinks. It accelerated very quickly into addiction.
‘His brother Daniel would look in the back of the van and see piles and piles of empty energy drink cans. We’d clear them out and the next day there would be more again.’
Sleepless nights and heart palpitations followed his energy drink addiction. Justin visited the doctor where he was told he had a heart rate equivalent to an 80-year-old man.
Justin self-medicated on energy drinks in the day, followed by alcohol at night, as part of a ‘vicious cycle’ which ‘spiralled out of control‘.
Mr Bartholomew added:
‘Over three months he went from the normal Justin that I knew and loved, to heavily depressed. Depression is a dangerous thing, combined with energy drinks it was a lethal combination.’
Mr Bartholomew was due to marry his partner in Scotland when he received news of his son’s death.
‘It was the worst day of my life. He had his whole life in front of him.
‘Justin was screaming out for help – and we couldn’t help him. The drink made him into a different person. We want justice for Justin.’