Posted in science

How much caffeine will kill you?

Exam season is often accompanied by the consumption of ungodly amounts of junk food, coffee and energy drinks. As the hour of judgement draws closer, the familiar sensation of caffeine-induced palpitations and sweaty palms sweeps over much of the student population. But how much caffeine will actually kill you? Let’s take my housemate as an example; she weighs roughly 70 kilograms and is around average height. According to caffeineinformer.com, it would take approximately 184.8 cups of instant coffee (or 256.9 Jӓgerbombs) to cause her to keel over. That’s 10,533.6 milligrams of caffeine – a pretty unrealistic amount to consume, right? Apparently not.

Despite the ludicrous amount of caffeine required, some people do manage to die from overdoses – sometimes in scarily innocuous ways. Back in 2007, a 19 year old in Connecticut passed away after consuming 25-30 No-Doz caffeine tablets in order to retain concentration whilst studying. This was more than the recommended dose of a couple of tablets every few hours, but there was no indication of the risks on the packaging. The sheer amount of caffeine he had ingested caused the unfortunate teen to go into cardiac arrest, which proved fatal. This is not the only incidence of death by caffeine though; in 2009 an Australian man died after drinking 7-8 cans of an unnamed energy drink, which then triggered a cardiac arrest. Along with this, in 2011 a 14 year old girl collapsed and died from a cardiac arrest, triggered by the consumption of 2 cans of Monster energy drink.

In the overall scheme of things, death resulting directly from caffeine overdose are incredibly rare – most casualties are found to have some sort of underlying condition – but these unfortunate incidents do provide food for thought. So, next time you’re heaping spoon after spoon of extra-strength instant coffee into your mug in preparation for yet another all-nighter, be warned; what doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily make you stronger.

Tabitha Watson

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