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Caffeine overdose killed teenage boy, coroner says

Image: Cup of coffee © A cup of coffee. Image: Cup of coffee

A 16-year-old boy died from a caffeine overdose after drinking caffeine-laden soft drinks, coffee and an energy drink, a South Carolina coroner said Monday.

Davis Allen Cripe collapsed and died last month, Richland County coroner Gary Watts told a news conference.

“On this particular day within the two hours prior to his death, we know had consumed a large diet Mountain Dew, a cafe latte from McDonalds and also some type of energy drink,” Watts said.

“It was so much caffeine at the time of his death that it caused his arrhythmia.”

Last month researchers reported that energy drinks can cause dangerous changes in heart function and blood pressure above and beyond caffeine alone. Another team found similar dangers in 2015.

“These drinks can be very dangerous,” Watts said. “I’m telling my friends and family don’t drink them.”

Watts, who is not a medical doctor, did not give details on how he came to the conclusion that the drinks killed Cripe. He said he did not know what type of energy drink Cripe drank.

“The purpose here today is not to slam Mountain Dew, not to slam cafe lattes, or energy drinks. 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,” Watts said.

“It wasn’t a car crash that took his life. Instead, it was an energy drink,” the boy’s father Sean Cripe said at the news conference.

“Parents, please talk to your kids about these energy drinks.”

The Food and Drug Administration had said that caffeine in doses up to 400 mg (about five cups of coffee) is generally safe.

Caffeine prompts the release of natural compounds called catecholamines, including norepinephrine, a stress hormone that can speed the heart rate. People who have died from documented caffeine overdoses had irregular and rapid heart rates, seizures and sometimes choked on their own vomit.

A 12-ounce Mountain Dew contains 54 mg of caffeine. McDonald’s does not report the amount of caffeine in its coffee.

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