The Scary World of Powdered Caffeine

Coffee jitters happen to the best of us. One restless night can lead to multiple trips to the office coffee pot the next morning and, occasionally, a caffeine-induced anxious buzz in the afternoon. Although this jittery feeling is your body’s way of telling you to cool it on the dark stuff, the two cups of java you inhaled before the big meeting contain the same amount of caffeine as 1/16th of a teaspoon of caffeine powder, a measurement that’s roughly the caffeine powderequivalent of what some chefs refer to as a “pinch.” If you think that’s small, a 12-ounce Coca-Cola contains only 1/64th of a teaspoon of caffeine powder, a measurement impossible for human fingertips to gauge. Soda manufacturers, the primary purchasers of caffeine powder, are cognizant of the concentrated power of powdered caffeine and carefully blend it into their drinks. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many other buyers of powdered caffeine, which has led to some grim consequences.

Logan Stiner, a high school student in Ohio, overdosed on powdered caffeine roughly a year ago and died of “acute caffeine toxicity.” A few weeks after Stiner’s death, a young Georgia man named James Wade Sweatt overdosed, fell into a coma, and died shortly after. Stiner and Sweatt ingested powdered caffeine because they believed it would be a safe way to get an energy boost and were able to procure it cheaply and easily. Sweatt even downloaded a conversion chart in an attempt to calculate a safe dosage. It is apparent that both young men had no idea of just how powerful (and dangerous) powdered caffeine can be, and that has prompted a number of political figures to take action.

This past November, Suffolk County in New York banned sales of powdered caffeine to minors, according to the New York Times. In April, the Illinois and Ohio Senates approved bills to ban retail sales of caffeine powder. New Jersey and Maryland have introduced similar bills. The Food and Drug Administration has also put out a consumer advisory that warns of the dangers of powdered caffeine.

Powdered caffeine’s low price (100 grams ranges from $5 to $10) and availability over the Internet is attractive to young people who are looking for a quick and easy boost. Moreover, 90 percent of adults worldwide consume caffeine daily (whether in coffee, soda, pills, or snacks), so it is no surprise that the ubiquitous nature of the substance shrouds the lethal magnitude of taking too much powdered caffeine, by giving it the appearance of being safe or innocuous.

The fact of the matter is that an oblivious approach toward supplements is perilous and reckless and, as I’ve written about previously, all supplements should be researched before purchased or ingested. As always, be sure to always check the safety of the supplements you’re interested in by searching for them in LegitScript’s database.

And stick with the Starbucks for your caffeine fix.