Saturday, October 12, 2013

No (Red) Bull!

I just finished meeting with a young woman, Katie, whom I have known for about seven years, and whom I first met at the child/adolescent out-patient clinic of the Charles Le Moyne Hospital.  She had been evaluated by Dr. Jean-Pierre Bienvenu and diagnosed with Juvenile Bipolar Disorder as well as the highly unusual Intermittent Explosive Disorder related to alcohol consumption.

In the seven years that I have known her, Katie has suffered tremendous anxiety and tortuously obsessive thoughts for which various medications have been prescribed to help get these debilitating symptoms under control.  The medications, usually some variation on the standard prescription of long-acting anti-depressants in combination with short-acting ant-anxiety pills, provided little relief.

Until recently.

A few months ago, Katie ended up at the hospital one evening after having had a few too many drinks in combination with a joint.  She was on the verge of hysterics and her boyfriend, seeing his girlfriend so completely transformed, insisted they go to the emergency room.

Katie was evaluated by a nurse who took stock of everything Katie had consumed on top of her prescriptions over the past years, then told Katie, “You might have died”.

It turns out Katie had been consuming the energy drink Red Bull on a daily basis for eight years, since before her initial consultation with the psychiatrist at Charles Le Moyne.  Over the past few years, on top of her prescription drugs, she'd added a daily joint or two because of incessant jitters.  Now and then, she would also have a few drinks on top of that combination.  Every time she did so, she would have an “episode” where her heart would beat excessively fast and she would become “another person”, doing things that were reported to her later that she was never able to recall.  She would experience profound distress after these humiliating episodes, and her anxiety would be full-blown and debilitating for several days.  

While the doctor who initially evaluated Katie hadn't taken a complete history, misdiagnosed the source of her episodes and prescribed something that made her anxiety worse, the nurse took the time to find out everything Katie was putting into her system and told Katie that Red Bull was like taking speed and that she probably started using marijuana regularly to help counteract the effects.  Katie's psychiatric diagnoses may not have been accurate and her prescription drugs may not have even been necessary.  Certainly the drug and alcohol combinations were very dangerous for her heart, the nurse told her, and Katie's hormone and serotonin levels were probably seriously out of whack.  She said that Katie had to stop mixing Red Bull and drugs immediately or she may die.  So she did.

Katie quit Red Bull and marijuana that day but continued to drink alcohol occasionally.  She has not had an “episode” since, and she is calmer, more serene, and happier than I have ever seen her.

There are obviously psychoactive ingredients in these over-the-counter energy drinks that not only accelerate the heart and trigger anxiety but, in combination with other drugs (prescription or street drugs) and alcohol, are apparently very very harmful.

Consumer beware!  Consult a health professional who takes the time to do a full medical examination and history before prescribing anything to you.

1 comment:

  1. dig deeper into energy drinks: