Volume 18, Issue 2 (April 1973)
Report of a Human Fatality Due to Caffeine
Caffeine (1-, 3-, 7-trimethylxanthine) is probably the most widely used and socially acceptable drug in the world today. The United States alone uses more than three billion pounds of coffee annually. A cup of brewed coffee beverage will contain from 100 to 150 mg of the alkaloid per 8 oz portion, while tea contains 30 to 50 mg per 8 oz portion and cola drinks contain about 1 mg per oz. In addition to the consumption of caffeine in beverage form, many prescription, as well as over-the-counter drugs contain varying amounts of caffeine. An example of the former is Cafergot® (Sandoz Pharmaceuticals) while No-Doz® (J. B. Williams Co.) and analgesics such as Empirin® (Burroughs-Wellcome & Co.) or diuretic preparations such as Aqua-Ban® (The Thompson Medical Co.) exemplify the latter. Caffeine is not generally considered to be a drug of misuse although it has mild cortical stimulatory properties. Excessive consumption of the compound is generally prevented by another of its pharmacological properties, that of potent gastric irritation. The individual bent on misuse usually vomits before a lethal amount of the drug can be consumed. In rate instances, however, it is possible to ingest enough caffeine to cause death. Such an instance occurred in Benton County, Indiana in 1964, when an individual contemplating suicide ingested a minimum of 6.5 g and possibly as much as 9–12 g of caffeine alkaloid.