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Fatal caffeine overdose: two case reports.

Kerrigan S, et al. Forensic Sci Int. 2005.

Abstract

Caffeine is a mild central nervous stimulant that occurs naturally in coffee beans, cocoa beans and tea leaves. In large doses, it can be profoundly toxic, resulting in arrhythmia, tachycardia, vomiting, convulsions, coma and death. The average cup of coffee or tea in the United States is reported to contain between 40 and 150 mg caffeine although specialty coffees may contain much higher doses. Over-the-counter supplements that are used to combat fatigue typically contain 100-200 mg caffeine per tablet and doses of 32-200mg are included in a variety of prescription drug mixtures. Fatal caffeine overdoses in adults are relatively rare and require the ingestion of a large quantity of the drug, typically in excess of 5 g. Over a period of approximately 12 months our office reported two cases of fatal caffeine intoxication. In the first case, the femoral blood of a 39-year-old female with a history of intravenous drug use contained 192 mg/L caffeine. In the second case, femoral blood from a 29-year-old male with a history of obesity and diabetes contained 567 mg/L caffeine. In both cases, the cause of death was ruled as caffeine intoxication and the manner of death was accidental.

PMID

15935584 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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