COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The sudden death of a healthy high school senior has ramped up attention on unregulated caffeine powder, leading federal health authorities to warn consumers to stay away from the substance.
A recent autopsy found that Logan Stiner, 18, had a lethal amount of caffeine in his system when he died May 27 at his home in LaGrange, Ohio, southwest of Cleveland. The county coroner said Stiner had more than 70 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of blood in his system, as much as 23 times the amount of a typical coffee or soda drinker.
His mother has said she was unaware her son took caffeine powder. The prom king and wrestler was days away from graduation. He had planned to study at the University of Toledo.
"I don't think any of us really knew that this stuff was out there," said Jay Arbaugh, the Keystone Local Schools superintendent.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday that it's investigating caffeine powder and will "consider taking regulatory action." The agency said it was aware of the teen's death and cautioned parents that young people could be drawn to it.
Caffeine powder is sold as a dietary supplement, so it's not subject to the same federal regulations as certain caffeinated foods. Users add it to drinks for a pick-me-up before workouts or to control weight gain.
A minuscule amount of caffeine powder packs a punch.
"Merely 1/16th of a teaspoon can contain
about 200 milligrams of caffeine,
roughly the equivalent found in
two large cups of coffee."
Merely 1/16th of a teaspoon can contain about 200 milligrams of caffeine, roughly the equivalent found in two large cups of coffee. That means a heaping teaspoon could kill, said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill ?Hospital in New York.
The powder is almost impossible to measure with common kitchen tools, the FDA said. Volume measures like teaspoons aren't precise enough and a scale may be needed.
"The difference between a safe amount and a lethal dose of caffeine in these powdered products is very small," said FDA spokeswoman Jennifer Dooren.
Glatter said he's seen several younger patients experience complications from caffeine in the last few months. Some have arrived at his hospital with high, rapid heart rates.
"They're starting to latch on to the powders more because they see it as a more potent way to lose weight," Glatter said.
Health officials worry about caffeine powder's potential popularity among exercise enthusiasts and young people seeking an energy boost.
Dr. Henry Spiller directs a poison control center at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Over a week or so this month, the center took reports of three people hospitalized for misusing caffeine powder.
"I can't believe you can buy this," Spiller said. "Honestly, I mean, it's frightening. It makes no sense to me."