After Two Deaths in 2014, Powdered Caffeine Is One of the Most Dangerous and Unregulated Drugs Available Online

After Two Deaths in 2014, Powdered Caffeine Is One of the Most Dangerous and Unregulated Drugs Available Online

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Once upon a time, caffeine was just another ingredient in coffee, and being allowed to have a cup after dinner was a privilege and a bit of an adolescent milestone. But if recent news reports are any indication, America’s caffeine consumption isn’t just becoming popular with younger kids and teens — it’s turning into a trend that’s actually very, very dangerous.

Recent reports by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have noted that pure caffeine powder is becoming one of the top methods of caffeine consumption, and that this powder is dangerous enough to lead to death.

The FDA released a consumer warning in July 2014 warning about the dangers of caffeine powder, following the deaths of 18-year-old Logan Stiner in May and 24-year-old Wade Sweatt in June, both of whom consumed fatal amounts of caffeine powder.

In its powdered form, caffeine is incredibly potent, and can lead to a variety of side effects, which may even be fatal. The powder is fairly easy to buy online, and like many drugs sold on the web through “online pharmacies,” it isn’t approved — or even regulated — by the FDA. Nevertheless, as the Wall Street Journal notes, powdered caffeine is still legal, and is even sold on Amazon for about $10 per 8 oz. of powder.

As Robert Herriman explains in a Global Dispatch article, just one teaspoon of caffeine powder is equal to about 25 cups of coffee. Whereas an extra espresso shot or two might give someone the jitters and a pounding heartbeat, ingesting too much pure caffeine can produce heart palpitations, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, and possibly even death.

In light of this year’s fatalities, the FDA has renewed its efforts to educate the public about the dangers of this drug. At the beginning of December, a health advocacy group petitioned the FDA to ban sales of pure caffeine; just recently, the Director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety wrote a blog post on the agency’s website giving even greater insight into the dangers of the substance.

Even though these caffeine-related deaths occurred months ago, and even though it’s disconcerting to some that the FDA hasn’t moved faster on this issue, it’s certainly a good sign that the public is starting to listen to the FDA’s warnings.

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