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Red Bull, alcohol and drugs 'can spark violence'

A CLINICAL addiction specialist has called for the banning of the Red Bull energy drink because of what he says is the adverse reaction when it is mixed with alcohol and medication.

Galway Circuit Court heard yesterday that the high-caffeine drink, which is already banned in France, was becoming a feature of cases involving violence coming before the courts.

Clinical specialist in addiction with the HSE West, Joseph Treacy was giving evidence in a case involving a 19-year-old student, with no previous criminal record, who carried out an unprovoked assault on a 61-year-old taxi driver.

Joseph Campbell, who is now 20, from Freeport, Barna, Co Galway, was before the Circuit Court having pleaded guilty to assaulting taxi driver William Payton, causing him harm on September 4 2005.

Having just returned from the US, Campbell had gone out to a 21st birthday party with friends he had not seen since before going away.

Campbell, who suffers from ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) had earlier taken his prescribed medication, Concerta, but had gone on to drink alcohol and Red Bull. He had not intended to drink because he was aware he should not mix his medication with alcohol.

Just before 4am, he had taken a taxi from Galway city to Moycullen. He had covered his head with his coat in the front seat during the journey.

At Kylebroughlan, he produced a rock from under his coat and struck Mr Payton a number of times in the head.

The taxi driver lost a number of teeth, suffered severe pain and had been unable to return to work since the assault. He now lived like a "hermit", the court heard, afraid to open the curtains at his home.

Garda John Glynn, who arrived at the scene, said Campbell was described by witnesses as acting "crazy" and was talking gibberish.

He had also said to the taxi driver something to the effect of "I get a bit funny when I drink" and was banging his head off the back of the seat of the Garda car while being taken to the station.

Mr Payton said he was "totally shattered" by the attack. It had caused the break-up of a relationship with a woman, he could not work and, as a result, was ruined financially.

He said he would be willing to accept a compensation gesture from Campbell‘s family as he was "in a financial mess".

Mr Treacy, called by the defence, said he had a particular interest in high caffeine drinks and their effect when mixed with alcohol and prescribed medication.

He believed there should be a growing concern about the allergic reaction when mixed in this way. He had recently called for the banning of Red Bull and its promotion and other promotions involving cheap alcohol in hotels and nightclubs.

The drink had been an offending factor when mixed with alcohol and prescribed medication in a number of cases coming before the courts, two of which he was involved in.

He had been in contact with Janssen Cilag, the makers of the drug Concerta, and had initially been told that there was no adverse reaction when it was mixed with alcohol.

But when contacted a second time, the drug company said: "Alcohol may exacerbate the adverse effect of psychoactive drugs, including Concerta."

"It's my observation that Red Bull Bull seems to be a driving force here," Mr Treacy said.

Martin Giblin SC, representing Campbell, told Judge Raymond Groarke that his client had been tortured by what he had done and had written to Mr Payton, apologising. His parents had also apologised. His client had a very good academic record and had worked with children from Belarus voluntarily.

His family had put all their resources together and wanted to offer ?30,000 to Mr Payton, unconditionally, as a gesture of remorse.

Judge Groarke said it was a complex case and he would deliver sentence next Tuesday.

Brian McDonald

A history of controversy

RED Bull has been giving wings to controversy ever since it was first launched in Ireland.

The high-energy drink, which contains caffeine and taurine, has been at the centre of a coroner's inquest and has been probed by the Food Safety Promotion Board.

The death of 18-year-old Ross Cooney, who died playing basketball after drinking two cans of Red Bull, sparked concerns about the drink's safety. While the jury ruled that he died of sudden adult death syndrome, the coroner said more research should be carried out into its effects.

The makers say it contains no more caffeine than a cup of coffee.

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