A cup of coffee in the morning can be an effective pick-me-up. But, when it comes to concentrated caffeine, there may be a fine line between a healthy boost and a dangerous dose.
Caffeine powder is an ingredient commonly used in sodas, energy drinks and dietary supplements. But consumers can also purchase it for themselves online.
According to The New York Times’ Well blog, that’s how Logan Stiner, 18, of LaGrange, OH, and James Wade Sweatt, 24, of Alpharetta, GA, obtained caffeine powder last year. Within weeks of each other, the two young men accidentally overdosed on the powder and died.
Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance and stimulant of the body's central nervous system. The most well-known source of caffeine may be the seed of Coffea (coffee) plants. Beverages containing caffeine may relieve or prevent drowsiness and increase energy.
Pure powdered caffeine is much stronger than the caffeine found in a cup of coffee or tea, The Times reports. One teaspoon is the equivalent of 16 to 25 cups of coffee.
About a tablespoon of it can be deadly.
The Times reports that Stiner used the powder to power through his final exams. Sweatt used the powder because he believed it to be a healthier alternative to drinking soda.
Both men were unaware of the powder’s toxicity.
According to a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) statement made after the deaths, “Pure caffeine is a powerful stimulant and very small amounts can cause accidental overdose.”
The FDA noted that caffeine overdose symptoms may include irregular heartbeat and seizures.The agency also advised parents to warn their children about the dangers of caffeine powder.
Several groups, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Council for Responsible Nutrition, have asked the FDA to take action to regulate the sale of caffeine powder.
Several state legislatures have debated bills banning direct sale of the powder. However, the federal government has not yet regulated its sale.