Caffeine overdose dangers deserve another serious look

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Legalization of marijuana is the most common topic for people taking part in coffee shop debate over drugs, but a more appropriate substance might be right under their noses.

Not the coffee, necessarily, but the caffeine it contains is what deserves another look.

A South Carolina coroner confirmed Monday that a 16-year-old boy died last month after consuming a large diet Mountain Dew, a cafe latte from McDonald’s and some type of energy drink.

That amounted to so much caffeine, that it caused arrhythmia.

An autopsy indicated there was no undiagnosed heart condition, but a medical examiner and forensic toxicologist found the boy, Davis Allen Cripe, had consumed more caffeine than what was considered safe.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers 400 mg of caffeine to be generally safe, about five cups of coffee.

Caffeine prompts the release of natural compounds called catecholamines, including norepinephrine, a stress hormone that can speed the heart rate. People who have died from documented caffeine overdoses had irregular and rapid heart rates, seizures and sometimes choked on their own vomit.

While it might be difficult to consume enough coffee quickly enough to endanger your health, the same can not be said about energy drinks, energy shots or pills.

In 2006, James Stone, a 19-year-old from Wallingford, Conn., died after taking nearly two dozen NoDoz tablets — each containing about 200 mg of caffeine.

40 seagulls died from a caffeine overdose in Canada from eating used coffee grounds.

Jasmine Willis, 17, an English waitress, had to be taken to the hospital after drinking seven double espressos in 2007.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, energy drink-related ER visits have doubled in the last four years. However, 42 percent of those involved caffeine in combination with other drugs such as alcohol or other narcotics.

For adults, the 400 mg safe dose of caffeine is about:

5.2 shots of espresso

Two 5 Hour energy shots

1 Starbucks Venti brewed coffee

2.5 16-fl.oz. Monster energy drinks

5 8-fl.oz. Red Bulls

11.7 12-fl.oz. Cokes

While the jury is still out about possible dangers of consuming normal amounts of energy drinks, parents and children should be aware excessive consumption of caffeine, like any mind-altering substance, can be a dangerous game.

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