Until the death this year of an 18-year-old after consuming pure caffeine powder, many people were probably not even aware of its existence. It has, however, become extremely popular and in the wake of this tragedy, the Food and Drug Administration is launching an investigation into the safety of this substance. In the meantime, here is what everyone should know about pure caffeine powder and the risks involved in using it. This information is especially important for parents to be aware of, so they can talk to their children about this new potential danger.
It is Highly Popular with Young People
Not surprisingly, the largest consumer base for this product is made up of teenagers and young adults. It is used for a variety of reasons. The most common include to enhance athletic performance before a sporting event, to stave off the effects of alcohol or marijuana at parties and to cram for late-night study sessions.
It is Very Accessible
Because it is classified as a dietary supplement, it is not regulated by the FDA and does not require a prescription to purchase. It is easily obtainable on many Internet sites. It also is extremely cheap, with one company offering 100mg of it for around $12. This makes is extremely accessible, even to teenagers.
It is Lethal in Small Doses
Sensitivity to caffeine varies widely and so does the lethal dose of it, although between 5 and 15g is most common. Since a person would have to drink, for instance, 50 cups of coffee rather quickly to ingest this amount, it is not a problem. However, since one teaspoon of pure caffeine powder is the rough equivalent of 25 cups of coffee, it is not hard to see how an overdose could happen.
It is NOT Instant Coffee
Some of the trouble has stemmed from people confusing this powder with instant coffee, which can turn out to be a fatal mistake. Instant coffee actually contains less caffeine than the regular, drip variety. To compare, there is usually around 74mg of stimulant in instant coffee – and 3,000mg in the same amount of caffeine powder.
It Has Serious Overdose Symptoms
The recommended daily dosage for caffeine for a healthy adult without cardiac problems is around 400mg. If that amount is exceeded, symptoms of this overdose can include shortness of breath, irregular or rapid heartbeat, muscle spasms, gastrointestinal side effects like vomiting and diarrhea and even more serious effects like confusion, convulsions and hallucinations.
Because caffeine is so ubiquitous in our society, many people do not tend to see it as a potential danger. However, because of the concentrated nature of pure caffeine powder and the extreme amounts of stimulant involved, it can, in fact, constitute a serious health problem that people need to know about.
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