HEADLINES Published May19, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

Easy Access to Pure Caffeine Leading to Overdose Deaths

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Unlike with a cup of espresso like this, you can overdose on pure caffeine powder.
(Photo : Joe Raedle, Getty Images )

It is easy to buy pure caffeine powder. It is sold as a supplement, like vitamin C or protein powder. Unfortunately, it is also easy to kill yourself by accident with it.

Several deaths have been attributed to the use of pure caffeine powder. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising consumers to avoid the use of the product. "Pure caffeine is a powerful stimulant, and very small amounts may cause accidental overdose," the agency said in a statement.

 Six Democratic senators have asked the FDA to ban retail sales of caffeine powder. A dietary supplement trade organization is asking members not to sell caffeine directly to consumers. Several states, including Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York, have introduced bills to banning retail sale of caffeine powder.

A typical amount of caffeine in an 8-ounce cup of coffee is about 110 milligrams. The amount of caffeine in a 12-ounce Coca-Cola is 34 milligrams. Powdered caffeine is usually sold in 100-gram packages, which cost about $10 each. These packets contain the equivalent of about 800 8-ounce cups of coffee. A half teaspoon of caffeine powder would be equal to about 8 to 12 cups of coffee. However, a lethal dose of caffeine powder is 10 grams-less than a tablespoon, an amount that can be measured out accidentally.

Because caffeine is in products used every day, it is easy to forget that it is a drug. It is a stimulant that has serious effects on the cardiovascular and nervous system. Caffeine powder is used in industry as an additive by the soft drink industry and in making certain medications. Individuals buy it for the same reasons they drink a shot of espresso or down an energy drink. They want a bit more energy and maybe some to help with concentration.

Caffeine powder is almost unregulated. It can be bought from online vendors or in some health food stores. Usually the product packaging carries warning about the dangers of an overdose, but such labeling is voluntary.

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