MONTREAL – As the commercials say, Red Bull doesn’t really give you wings, but it can give you quite a monkey on your back.

Joannie Charbonneau, 26, of Montreal says her “addiction” to the energy drink was so powerful, at one point she was spending $1,500 a month for her daily overdose.

“I had two jobs. My second salary paid for the drinks,” she said.

Charbonneau said she is now “weaning” herself from the drink, after getting to the point where she couldn’t function without at least a dozen a day.

“I stopped eating. It has decreased my appetite a lot. I lacked vitamins.”

She started to drink it to stay awake at work at a convenience store, which just so happened to offer a discount on Red Bull at the time.

“I am working 80 to 90 hours some weeks. I started with two, three, four, then 15 and even 20 a day,” she said.

This went on for about four months.

“Certainly by the end, I had heartburn and loose stools. When I decided to stop, I was at the point where I needed to drink it as soon as I woke up.”

Charbonneau wanted to talk about her ordeal if only to help others who might find themselves in the same situation.

“I felt alone, but this is serious,” she said. “It’s necessary that people understand it. It’s an addiction.”

Her doctor prescribed antidepressants to help her body tolerate the transition.

She admits she still rages for Red Bull, and she succumbs on occasion.

While energy drinks are most popular among younger people, stories of this kind of addiction have crossed all ages.

Lisa (not her real name), 45, began to drink Red Bull last year. For the Montreal nursing assistant, it was a way to stay awake, especially during double shifts of 16 hours.

Gradually, she began to consume more and more. Today, she too is trying to shed the habit, cutting herself back to six or seven a day.

“I’m embarrassed about it,” said the woman, who would go to different stores to buys her cans because she didn’t want clerks to know about her addiction.

“It’s the financial side which made me realize that I was drinking it too much. I was up to about $70 per week

“I even skipped a bill payment once so I could be sure I’d have enough money for Red Bull”

She tried to go cold turkey for three days, but admits she snapped.

“I went to buy milk, but then went right to the Red Bull fridge.”

According to warnings on the Red Bull containers themselves, daily intake should not exceed two cans.

The active ingredients in Red Bull include caffeine, glucuronolactone, a carbohydrate, and taurine, an amino acid.

(news source