A powdered drug is sweeping the nation and causing teen deaths, and it's not cocaine or heroin: it's pure caffeine powder.
As the name suggests, this powder is a highly concentrated dose of caffeine, with a single teaspoon equalling the caffeine content of a whopping 28 cups of coffee! It's no wonder that the FDA has warned that even small amounts can lead to accidental overdose. Symptoms of overdosing on caffeine include an erratic/rapid heartbeat, seizures, and death.
The powder is currently available in several places online and is generally sold in bulk bags. The problem is that everyday kitchen measuring tools like teaspoons are still too large to measure the proper dosage out. According to the FDA, "Volume measures, such as teaspoons, are not precise enough to calculate how many milligrams of caffeine are in the serving size."
In a recent letter to the FDA, Democratic senators urged the placement of a federal ban on the sale of pure caffeine powder. The group of senators repeatedly stated that the FDA has been a "bitter disappointment" in their handling of this issue. The lawmakers point to the deaths of two young people using pure caffeine powder in 2014 as the source of their concern.
The first victim, Logan Stiner, was a high school senior who tried to use the powder to boost his energy. Unfortunately, he miscalculated the dosage. The second victim, James Wade Sweatt, was a 24-year-old college graduate who died after drinking a blended energy drink which contained caffeine powder.
Following the deaths of Stiner and Sweatt, the FDA recommended that consumers avoid pure caffeine powder. The following year, in 2015, they sent warnings to five distributors of the powder due to the products presenting a "significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury to consumers."
According to the senators lobbying to ban the powder, however, this action hasn't nearly been enough.
In their letter to the FDA, the senators state that "It is disturbing that despite two unintended and untimely deaths associated with powdered caffeine, the FDA has done little to regulate these products or adequately enforce the standards in place to protect Americans."
"These products do not provide a way to measure a safe dosage per FDA recommendations, and are sold in quantities that could easily kill hundreds of individuals if ingested incorrectly," the letter went on to say.
Caffeine Kills In More Ways Than One
Although the focus of this article is pure caffeine powder, it would be remiss not to mention the dangers of other energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar, and 5-Hour Energy. Several studies have linked the consumption of these beverages to a significant spike in blood pressure.
The FDA has also investigated several deaths in recent years that were linked to the excess consumption of caffeinated energy drinks. According to Dr. Nieca Goldberg, director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU Langone Medical Center, most consumers have no idea how much caffeine they're really consuming, which is where the real danger lies.
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