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Coffee plays an indispensible role in the modern workplace. Many of us rely on a few cups to get us through the day, but scary headlines also rule the roost. Prognostigators love to scare us with stories about the risks of too much caffeine, while doctors simultaneously tell us the benefits of a few cups per day. Aside from the small amount we receive in our daily cuppas, a true danger exists in the pure, powdered form of caffeine.
Caffeine is generally harmless when ingested in coffee, tea, chocolate, or soda. Only last week, the Washington Post published a new study, which advised Americans to drink more coffee. At around five cups per day, coffee carries several health benefits, including decreased risk of liver disease, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. In athletes, coffee promotes increased muscle recovery after a challenging workout. Miriam Nelson, a Tufts University professor, said, “We saw that coffee has a lot of health benefits. Specifically when you’re drinking more than a couple cups per day.” Mayo Clinic similarly recommends up to 400 mg of caffeine each day for adults only (which adds up to 4 cups of coffee or 2 energy beverages).
Caffeine overdose through beverages is possible, but one has to drink gallons of coffee to experience side effects like tremors and rapid heartbeat. Make no mistake, caffeine is a psychoactive drug; but quantities in beverages and chocolate are so miniscule that there’s not much danger. The problem begins when adolescents or children start pounding back the energy drinks (or worse). The past few years have seen a rise in deaths related to overconsumption of the popular (2oz) 5-Hour Energy shots. Between 2008 and 2013, the product was linked to 13 deaths and 30 near misses.
Even scarier is the presence of readily available powdered caffeine, which is available for purchase on the internet. Business Insider just published an account of how easy it is to order the deadly substance online. For $30, they received enough pure caffeine to equal the amount present in over 15,000 cans of soda. Teenagers and college students are no strangers to caffeine as the new party drug. This powder is legal, easier to afford than substances like Adderall, and a few snorts of caffeine help them study all night and party all weekend long.
The habit has grown increasingly deadly. Last year, the FDA issued a warning against pure caffeine sales. An Ohio teenager collapsed in his home after snorting the substance, and the FDA would love to see action against pure caffeine sales online. As Business Insider noted, nothing has been done by the government to curb powdered caffeine availability online. The substance is only a few clicks away from your fingers.
Some quick facts on powdered caffeine:
1. One teaspoon can kill: Caffeine is legal but potentially deadly. It only takes one teaspoon (or 5,000 milligrams) of powdered caffeine to cause signs of overdose or even a heart attack.
2. The FDA’s concern: Since caffeine has been classified as a supplement, the substance lies beyond government regulation.
3. Teenagers love the powder: Some teens look to powdered caffeine as a study and weight loss aid as well as a party drug.
4. Yes, people snort the stuff: Powdered caffeine users snort the substance like any other powdered drug. Rolled bills are a chief method of delivery.
5. Overdose remains a very real possibility: Symptoms of caffeine overdose include vomiting, seizures, stupor, disorientation and heart attack.