What is the lethal level of caffeine consumption? Apparently, it's somewhere below "spoonfuls" of a caffeine supplement that a British man purchased over the Internet. Papers around the world are abuzz (sorry) about the death-by-stimulant of Michael Lee Bedford. The recommended dose on the packet is 1/16th of a teaspoon–I know I have my 1/16th teaspoon measure handy at all times–and he took substantially more. The accounts of the coroner's inquest say his consumption was 70 times the amount found in an energy drink. He even washed down the caffeine powder with an energy drink. He became ill nearly immediately, and died shortly afterwards.
Add this to a report in my state of Washington of a party in Roslyn October 9th, when a dozen mostly college students were sent to the hospital with what appeared to be poisoning. The suspicion initially was that someone had slipped roofies or the equivalent into the alcohol. A few days ago, however, the toxicology reports came back and pinned the blame on Four Loko, a caffeine-enhanced malt liquor with 12-percent alcohol. The caffeine apparently masks the effects of the liquor packed into a 23.5-ounce container. It and similar beverages, some sold by major brewers, are nicknamed "blackout in a can," and try to leverage the way in which some people binge drink by following alcohol with Red Bull.
I'm starting to develop a list of things that were either unavailable when I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, or I was simply too naive to be aware, that I now need to be sure my kids are aware of. When I grew up, making most stupid mistakes with commonly available products didn't lead readily to death. Unless I really was naive.
Image via Creative Commons from Bryan Gosline.