One Tablespoon of This Drug Could Kill You, and You Consume It Every Day
In 2014, an 18-year-old Ohio high school student named Logan Stiner was busy preparing for the finals stretch of his senior year. Finding himself struggling to keep up, he reached for the powdered version of an incredibly common substance, which his friend had purchased from Amazon. Ingesting this substance tragically ended up costing him his life.
The substance in question was caffeine, a substance that’s sold in its concentrated, powdered form online and even in some stores. After overdosing on an incredibly small amount of the powdered caffeine, Logan began to experience an irregular heartbeat and eventually seizures before ultimately succumbing to the overdose.
This incident, as well as several others around the country, prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to put companies selling and packaging caffeine powder on notice. The FDA told these companies that their powdered caffeine product poses “significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury to consumers.”
What does that mean for your daily cup of coffee? Read on to find out…
The Dose Makes the Poison
Now, before you begin worrying that a can of Coca-Cola or a cup of coffee is going to kill you, it’s important to remember one basic fact: It’s the dose that makes the poison.
It doesn’t matter what substance you’re taking about, even something like water, if consumed in a large enough quantity in a short period of time, can lead to an overdose and the loss of life.
Of course, the risk of taking a lethal dose of water is many orders of magnitude lower than overdosing on the powdered form of caffeine.
How Much Caffeine Is In Your Cup o’ Joe?
To understand doses of caffeine, let’s take a look at one of the most common ways people take in this drug: a good ol’ cup of Joe!
Varying depending upon the kind of coffee and how strongly it’s brewed, a cup of coffee will have anywhere from 65 to 100 milligrams of caffeine. This small amount is nowhere near what is required to overdose on caffeine.
By contrast, the amount of caffeine in one tablespoon of powdered caffeine is simply staggering. Depending upon the company that manufactured the powder, one can find up to 5 grams (5000 milligrams) in only one tablespoon, which is considered to be a dose capable of killing almost any adult.
To put this into context, this means that one tablespoon of powdered caffeine can contain the equivalent of up to 75 cups-of-coffee’s worth of caffeine. If you’ve ever had one-too-many cups of Joe in the morning, then you likely understand how a dose of caffeine like this would almost certainly have fatal consequences!
Why Powdered Caffeine Is Dangerous
Is powdered caffeine bad and dangerous in and of itself? Objectively speaking, no. However, it’s absolutely dangerous if you’re speaking practically.
Provided you can take a proper dose of caffeine powder, you might find it’s an easier way of getting your morning boost. While many people love coffee, there are certainly many who find the drink noxious, even after it’s been mixed with copious amounts of sugar and cream.
But, the danger of powered caffeine lies in how difficult the substance is to dose. First, you have to understand that powdered caffeine products are not created equally. Depending upon the company that produced your powdered caffeine, the actual amount of caffeine in a tablespoon of powder varies widely.
Even if you knew exactly how much caffeine is in a tablespoon of a given powder, though, how would you measure a safe amount of the substance? To get the amount of caffeine that’s in a typical cup of coffee, you’d need an amount equivalent to roughly 6% of a tablespoon… No one has a spoon in his or her kitchen capable of measuring that amount out reliably!
But What About Caffeine in Other Products?
Given that miniscule differences in the amount of caffeine powder consumed can be the difference between life and death, you’ve likely already decided to avoid it at all costs. This is a tremendous decision! But, how about other products that contain caffeine?
For those who prefer to avoid coffee, so-called energy shots have become increasingly popular. You might be surprised to learn just how much caffeine is in just one container of 5-Hour Energy, though. The standard version of the product contains about 200 milligrams of caffeine, while the “extra strength” version contains about 235 milligrams.
The amount of caffeine in various energy drinks varies quite a bit. Red Bull, the most popular, contains roughly 111 milligrams of caffeine in a single 12-ounce can. Those NOS energy drinks that come in the 16-ounce cans? Those have a staggering amount of caffeine, weighing in at 224 milligrams.
For many, soda will be the primary way that caffeine is ingested on a regular basis. When it comes to colas, Pepsi One has the highest caffeine content, containing roughly 56 milligrams per 12-ounce serving. Mountain Dew, which many believe is the caffeine soda champion, weighs in at 2 milligrams less per 12-ounce serving.
All told, though, the FDA places a limit of 71 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce serving for sodas sold in the United States. Still, remember this is for 12-ounce cans, and not those 7-Eleven Big Gulps, which have several times the volume of soda and thus exceptionally more caffeine…
Rather obviously, the dose of caffeine in a caffeine pill will be prominently displayed on the bottle. However, these products deserve special note because they’re used quite common, and they carry the same risks associated with caffeine in its powdered form. Given how easy it is to swallow pills, achieving a fatal dose of caffeine through pills is much easier than, say, drinking 20-30 Red Bulls.
Remember when people just used to put ice in their coffee? Well, cold-brew coffees are becoming more and more popular, and they’re bringing a lot of caffeine with them! In fact, one 32-ounce container of the popular “Chameleon Cold Brew” contains roughly 2.16 grams of caffeine, or about half a lethal dose. Still, that’s a lot of coffee to drink in one sitting, and cold brew coffees should be watered down a bit anyway…
The Dangers of Caffeine Consumption
Unless you’ve got an iron stomach and the thirst of a thousand men stranded in the desert, it’s highly unlikely that you’d be able to achieve a lethal overdose of caffeine by consuming normal caffeinated beverages. However, just because you’re not taking a lethal overdose of caffeine doesn’t mean that there isn’t such a thing as having too much.
Though it will vary from person to person, the FDA believes that consuming up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day is perfectly safe for most adults. However, consumption that pushes to 600 milligrams and beyond can have uncomfortable side effects. These side effects can become even more extreme if daily consumption is particularly excessive and consistent.
Insomnia, restlessness and nervousness are the side effects that most adults are likely to notice. The combination of these above side effects is also known to result in increased irritability for a heavy caffeine consumer. In more extreme cases, consuming too much caffeine can lead to muscle tremors and digestive issues. In the most extreme cases, too much caffeine consumed consistently can lead to an elevated heart rate or even heartbeat irregularities.
The Benefits of Caffeine Consumption
All of this doom and gloom may have you ready to swear off caffeine entirely, but don’t be too quick! Provided you can keep your caffeine intake to reasonable levels, there’s nothing to fear. In fact, there are several studies that suggest moderate caffeine intake can actually have positive health benefits!
Most notably, a little bit of caffeine can do wonders for feelings of fatigue! Just ask anyone who starts their day with a piping hot fresh cup o’ Joe. But, there are other benefits, too.
Some studies have suggested that moderate caffeine consumption can actually improve short-term memory. In addition to this, caffeine has also been shown in numerous studies to increase participants’ reaction times. (It turns out that coffee drinkers aren’t just imagining that increased sense of alertness!)
Speaking of drinking coffee, it turns out that this drink may have a number of positive health benefits. Some studies have linked coffee drinking to a decreased risk for ailments like Parkinson’s and Type-2 Diabetes, as well as to decreased risk for both liver cancer and liver disease.
So, there’s ultimately no reason to swear off caffeine entirely! It’s just important that you might how much you’re consuming, as well as that you factor in the health pros and cons of your caffeine-consumption method.