It was almost a year ago that Logan Stiner of Ohio was found dead on his living room floor. The medical examiner said the cause of death was “cardiac arrhythmia and seizure, due to acute caffeine toxicity due to excessive caffeine ingestion.” His mother, Kate Stiner, reported that he was “burning the candle at both ends.” Logan was in the process of finishing up high school. As an athlete and honors student, he pushed the limitations of acceptable caffeine powder usage, overdosed, and died.
Less then a month later, 24-year-old James Wade Seatt overdosed in Georgia. Falling into a coma, he died. He thought he was being health conscious by mixing up water and caffeine powder compared to his usual Diet Mountain Dew.
Caffeine powder is sold as a dietary supplement, but like many supplements, it is unregulated. Despite this, it can be found online and in many health stores. Typically, powdered caffeine is sold alongside vitamins and protein powders. Packages often include warning labels, but often times they are ignored. Parents of Stiner and Seatt are pushing for stricter limitations of the drug.
In its purest form, a teaspoon of caffeine powder is roughly equivalent to 20 cups of coffee. About one tablespoon is a deadly dosage for an adult. Sold in bulk, a 100 gram package is 400 12-ounce cups of coffee and it costs just $10. The FDA advises consumers that “Pure caffeine is a powerful stimulant, and very small amounts may cause accidental overdose.” As of December, the Center for Science in the Public Interest was petitioning the FDA to ban all retail sales of powdered caffeine .
Although caffeine was once thought to be a benign substance, the recent controversies have sparked interest in the supplement.Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance, but it is costly to extract. It is much cheaper to artificially create the powder. Last year, the United States imported 17 million pounds of the caffeine, most of which was used in the soft drink industry.
Depending on how caffeine is sold, the supplement is regulated differently. Caffeine is found in dietary supplements, energy drinks, sodas, over-the-counter medications, and prescription medications. As of May 2015, the FDA has not restricted the sale of powdered caffeine.