This Teen's Fatal Caffeine Overdose Is Rare but Cause for Concern

May 17th 2017

Kyle Jaeger

A large Mountain Dew contains 54 milligrams of caffeine; a McDonald's latte has about 142 milligrams; energy drinks have a wider range, with around 75 to 375 milligrams per serving, according to Caffeine Informer.

energy drinks

Spaced out throughout the day, consuming these three beverages might cause jitteriness and an elevated heart rate. But taken in rapid succession, this combination could cause death, as happened in the case of a 16-year-old in South Carolina: he died from a caffeine overdose last month, an autopsy report from the Richland County coroner has concluded.

Davis Allen Cripe consumed the three drinks within the span of two hours, coroner Gary Watts said during a press conference on Monday. "It was so much caffeine at the time of his death that it caused his arrhythmia," or abnormal heart rhythm, he said.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions against consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine in a given day. The coroner estimated that Cripe consumed just under 500 milligrams. But some people regularly exceed that limit, slamming multiple high-caffeine energy drinks throughout the day. How? The key factors are timing and body weight.

Though fatal caffeine overdoses are rare, there's been a noticeable increase in caffeine-related overdoses in recent years, especially among people under 18, data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers shows. Researchers have attributed that trend, in part, to the growing popularity of energy drinks, which studies have linked to heart issues such as increased blood pressure.


"I realize this is a controversial scenario," Watts said of Cripe's fatal overdose. "There are are obviously people that don't think this can happen — that you can have this arrhythmia caused by caffeine."

"The purpose here today is not to slam Mountain Dew, not to slam cafe lattes, or energy drinks," he continued. "But what we want to do is to make people understand that these drinks — this amount of caffeine, how it's ingested, can have dire consequences. And that's what happened in this case."