How Much Caffeine Would It Take To Kill You?

A lawsuit over the death of a 14-year-old girl raises new questions about how much caffeine is too much — and what other nefarious factors might come into play. The answer is hard to pin down, in part because it happens so rarely, but it’s clearly a hell of a lot. In an email, Jack James, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Caffeine Research, says that overdose for adults requires roughly 10 grams of caffeine. (People typically ingest just 1 to 2 mg/kg of caffeine per beverage.) A 2005 Forensic Science International article on two fatal caffeine overdoses in New Mexico pegs the figure closer to about 5 grams — an amount that would still require drinking more than 6 gallons of McDonald’s coffee. Whereas a normal cup of coffee might bring the concentration of caffeine in your plasma to 2.5 to 7 mg/L, the two people who died in New Mexico — a woman who might’ve used caffeine to cut intravenous drugs, and a man whose family said he ingested a bottle of sleeping pills — both had concentrations 100 times higher. A web application called ‘Death By Caffeine’ uses a benchmark around 6 grams per hundred pounds of body weight to estimate death, but it’s ‘for entertainment purposes only.” w/ photos

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