Death Puts Focus on Caffeine Powder
This Jan. 16, 2014 photo shows Keystone High School wrestler Logan Stiner, top, during a match in Sheffield Village, Ohio. A recent autopsy found that the 18-year-old Stiner had a lethal amount of caffeine in his system when he died May 27, 2014. The sudden death of a healthy high school senior has ramped up attention on unregulated caffeine powder and the ease of taking a toxic dose. (AP Photo/Steve Manheim, The Chronicle Telegram)
Columbus, Ohio — A few weeks before their prom king’s death, students at an Ohio high school had attended an assembly on narcotics that warned about the dangers of heroin and prescription painkillers.
But it was one of the world’s most widely accepted drugs that killed Logan Stiner — a powdered form of caffeine so potent that as little as a single teaspoon can be fatal.
The teen’s sudden death in May has focused attention on the unregulated powder and drawn a warning from federal health authorities urging consumers to avoid it.
“I don’t think any of us really knew that this stuff was out there,” said Jay Arbaugh, superintendent of the Keystone Local Schools.
The federal Food and Drug Administration said Friday that it’s investigating caffeine powder and will consider taking regulatory action. The agency cautioned parents that young people could be drawn to it.
An autopsy found that Stiner had a lethal amount of caffeine in his system when he died May 27 at his home in LaGrange, Ohio, southwest of Cleveland.
Stiner, a wrestler, had more than 70 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of blood in his system, as much as 23 times the amount found in a typical coffee or soda drinker, according to the county coroner.
His mother has said she was unaware her son took caffeine powder.
He was just days away from graduation and had planned to study at the University of Toledo.
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 packs a punch.
A mere 1⁄ 16th of a teaspoon can contain about 200 milligrams of caffeine, roughly the equivalent of 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.
“The difference between a safe amount and a lethal dose of caffeine in these powdered products is very small,” FDA spokeswoman Jennifer Dooren said.
Glatter said he’s seen several younger patients experience complications from caffeine in the last few months. Some arrive with rapid heart rates.
“They’re starting to latch onto the powders more because they see it as a more potent way to lose weight,” Glatter said.