How much caffeine does it take to kill someone?

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

The apparent caffeine-related death of a South Carolina teen has raised questions among health experts about exactly how much caffeine it takes to take a person's life.

Sixteen-year-old Davis Allen Cripe died at a local hospital in Richland County, South Carolina, on April 26. According to USA Today, authorities said the teen had consumed a McDonald's Cafe Latte, a large diet Mountain Dew and an unknown energy drink over the course of two hours before collapsing in a local high school classroom that day, according to multiple sources.

On Monday, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts confirmed Cripe's cause of death as a "caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia," USA Today reported.

Now health experts are weighing in on the discussion of just how much caffeine is too much for your body to handle.

How much caffeine does it take to kill?

The fatal effects of the stimulant drug vary depending on one's weight, but emergency room physician Robert Glatter of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City told USA Today that a person could die by consuming just one teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine.

"The recommended dose of powdered caffeine in this form is just 1/16th of a teaspoon," Glatter said.

It would take 50-100 cups of coffee to produce the same lethal effects, according to Glatter, who also noted that children should limit caffeine consumption and that adults should avoid mixing caffeine and alcohol, according to USA Today.

"The risk of alcohol poisoning increases as people consume more alcohol because they feel the caffeine will keep them awake and alert," Glatter said. "Most people can safely take in about 400 milligrams of caffeine daily or about four cups of coffee."

A picture of pure caffeine powder extracted from coffee beans.
Source: 
ReadPure.com/ReadPure.com

Caffeine-related side effects

Caffeine can have positive health benefits when consumed in moderation, but the negative effects typically start to kick in after 500 milligrams have been consumed, according to postdoctoral research fellow Maggie Sweeney of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine's department of psychiatry.

"It highly varies from person to person as to how much caffeine will affect them," Sweeney told USA Today. "It can be due to speed in which our bodies process caffeine or how caffeine leaves the body – a metabolic difference."

Glatter said those negative effects may include dizziness, increased blood pressure, jitteriness, heart palpitations and anxiety.

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Chauncey Alcorn

Chauncey is a trending news writer at Mic. His work has also been featured in the New York Daily News and Fortune.com. Email him at chauncey@mic.com.

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