The Low Down on Caffeine Overdose – Hype, Scare Tactic or Possibility

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Too much caffeine caused the death of a 16-year-old high school student from South Carolina who collapsed during class last month, according to the county coroner. Davis Allen Cripe died from a caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia.

During an arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body, and lack of blood flow affects the brain, heart and other organs. The teen consumed three caffeine-laced drinks -- a cafe latte, large Diet Mountain Dew and an energy drink -- in a two-hour period before collapsing in his classroom at Spring Hill High School on April 26, Watts said. [Source: CNN] So where does this tragic news leave adult java lovers?

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How much caffeine can I drink a day?

"Most people can safely take in about 400 milligrams of caffeine daily or about 4 cups of coffee," says Dr. Christopher Calapai D.O., a New York City Osteopathic Physician board certified in family and anti-aging medicine. He adds that, "the limit varies from person to person." It's difficult to assign an exact amount for everyone because people can have different sensitivities or reactions to caffeine based on age, medical history, and tolerance. However, there is enough research available to make a recommendation based on an individual's weight.

To keep it safe, health experts recommend a maximum daily dose of 400 mg. To see what this means for you, check out the caffeine in some of these common drinks:

Starbucks Coffee (16 fl oz): 320 mg caffeine

5-hour energy (1.93 fl oz): 207 mg caffeine

Dunkin Donuts regular (16 fl oz): 203 mg caffeine

Starbucks Latte (16 fl oz): 150 mg caffeine

Coffee, brewed (8 fl oz): 133 mg caffeine

Red Bull Energy Shot (2 fl oz): 80 mg caffeine

Red Bull (8 fl oz): 80 mg caffeine

Tea (8 fl oz): 53 mg caffeine

But how, exactly, can the world's most popular drug kill?

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Like other stimulants, caffeine raises blood pressure, boosts heart rate and temporarily shrinks blood vessels. Dr. Calapai explains that, "In excess, the effects can be deadly by causing a heart attack, stroke or other cardio-vascular-related problem. Researchers think daily caffeine intake can increase the risk of coronary heart disease, but the results so far have been inconclusive."

It's also important to realize that medical conditions can affect sensitivity to caffeine. "If you have anxiety, panic disorder, heart arrhythmia, high blood pressure, diabetes, take medication or have any sort of medical condition, then you may tolerate less caffeine and should speak to a doctor," says Dr. Calapai.

There are "caffeine overdose symptoms" that are important to watch for. These include:

Jitters, Restlessness, and Nervousness

Increased heartbeat



Heart palpitations (cardiac arrhythmia)





Cardiac arrest

Dr. Christopher Calapai, D.O. is an Osteopathic Physician board certified in family medicine, and anti-aging medicine. Proclaimed as the "The Stem Cell Guru" by the New York Daily News, Dr. Calapai is a leader in the field of stem cell therapy in the U.S. His stem cell treatments have achieved remarkable results in clinical trials on patients with conditions as varied as Alzheimer's, arthritis, erectile dysfunction, frailty syndrome, heart, kidney and liver failure, lupus, MS and Parkinson's. He has worked with Mike Tyson, Mickey Rourke, Steven Seagal, and Fox series Gotham's, Donal Logue; he was a medical consultant for the New York Rangers. Connect with him via twitter @drcalapai or at


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