Pure Powdered Caffeine Deaths Highlight Concerns Among Regulators

Federal health officials are urging consumers to avoid powdered pure caffeine stimulants, following fatal overdoses involving two healthy young men. 

The FDA highlighted the risks of powered caffeine products in a December 16 FDA Voice blog post, indicating that individuals from the agency met earlier this month with the families of the men who died earlier this year. According to the blog, the parents asked FDA officials to warn others about caffeine powder risks.

Powdered pure caffeine products are growing in popularity, especially among young adults who use the stimulants as an alternative to energy drinks or coffee. However, the FDA is becoming increasingly concerned with the potential health risks related to these products.

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The first known fatality related to the stimulant was recorded in May 2014, when 18 year-old high school senior Logan Stiner died in his Ohio home after taking powdered pure caffeine. The second fatality was recorded just one month later when 24 year-old James Sweatt, a newly married graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, went into a coma and died shortly after from overconsumption of pure caffeine powder.

According to the FDA, which interviewed the parents, both young men were healthy individuals, intelligent, and always careful about stimulant use.

Further investigation by the FDA showed that the two young men ordered the powdered caffeine online in bulk bags for a fairly cheap price. The products were packaged in the same way as protein powder, and marketed as an energy source alternative, rather than a stimulant. However, the powder is substantially more potent, with one teaspoon being the equivalent to 25 cups of coffee.

The FDA issued a safety advisory in July, warning that even a small amount of the powder may cause a fatal overdose. According to the agency, it is nearly impossible to accurately measure caffeine powder with common kitchen measuring tools which can lead to the consumption of lethal amounts.

The caffeine powder is often sold over the internet, or on some store shelves as a dietary supplement, so it is not subject to the same federal regulations as other caffeinated foods. However, it is essentially 100% pure caffeine, and may pose a serious health risk.

With the popularity of pure powdered caffeine growing, the FDA has recorded an increased number of hospitalizations from toxic caffeine levels in younger generations across the country in recent years. Many of the cases are directly related to the use of energy drinks, energy shots, and other harmful caffeine stimulants labeled as “All Natural.”

Symptoms of caffeine overdose can begin by feeling flushed which includes a rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, and at extremely dangerous levels may cause seizures leading to death.

The FDA is asking that consumer stop using pure caffeine powder products immediately to avoid possible overdose and death. Consumers should warn their peers about the dangers of these products and report any adverse health consequences to the FDA at 240-402-2405 or by email at CAERS@cfsan.fda.gov .


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